It's been brought to my attention that Princeton-Blairstown Center (PBC) is in hard times, and that Princeton is thinking of discontinuing the center as a support organization of the University. As a former employee of PBC, I think this is unwise. The University is an integral part of the center and needs that relationship to foster the community development and quality learning it provides to underserved populations.
I was a PBC instructor and worked there for three years in two capacities: Idealistic and fresh out of my undergraduate years, I taught for a year; the following two years I served as the kitchen supervisor. These three years working and living in PBC’s wonderful, formative community were the best years of my professional life. I was an instructor for the first “Underground Railroad bike expedition,” which I later used as an ethnography in my master’s thesis. Here, I talked about the existential experience of the child in learning environments like PBC versus standard classroom learning. My work was published by CUNY Press. More importantly, this trip and others like it changed and enriched the lives of so many students and instructors. This work is very important, and it should be encouraged and funded.
I came to New York City for graduate school to pursue classroom teaching and quickly segued into a clinical direction, now pursuing my second master’s in social work. PBC shaped this in me. I regard the center as the hallmark of my professional training and try to incorporate its humanistic methods and practices into my freelance work with urban youth.
That said, PBC is not just an amazing place for children to come and grow and learn, but it is also a very progressive training ground for many teachers and clinicians like myself. I know many folks I worked with who have followed career paths similar to mine, and all would say that PBC was influential in the pursuit of good work and shaping them as teachers, activists, caregivers, and the like.
Please consider the formative impact PBC offers children and their communities, and please find a way to keep the relationship between the center and the University up and running for future generations.