A Wagner College curriculum is designed to expand community outreach, give students an inside look at Staten Island communities in need and get them to learn by serving. New York 1 Borough Reporter Amanda Farinacci filed the following report on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011:
Los Potrillos Restaurant on Port Richmond Avenue is not a typical classroom, but the Mexican eatery in Port Richmond, Staten Island became a place of learning for some Wagner College students on Tuesday.
“It’s an interesting experience. This is definitely … I would never have expected this when I came to college here. I wasn’t expecting to go out and eat lunch with my class,” said Wagner College student Dan Twomey.
\It is part of a Wagner College program called the Port Richmond Partnership. Formed 5 years ago, the partnership focuses all the volunteer efforts Wagner students are required to do on a single community.
Students work with a host of community groups as well, spending time in the classroom and on the streets of Port Richmond. Study focuses on four areas: health care, immigration, economics and education.
“This is what might come out. In five years maybe, we’ll reduce diabetes by 5 percent or 10 percent, or we’ll increase college readiness by 10 percent or we’ll see this much more small business development be successful. Those are the kinds — we really want real outcomes,” said Wagner College President Richard Guarasci.
Port Richmond was once a bustling commercial center, and in recent years the neighborhood has diversified, attracting a large number of Hispanic immigrants, especially Mexicans.
That is why students spend time teaching classes in English as a second language and helping small local business owners like Maria Morales, the owner of Los Potrillos.
Morales said students encouraged her to paint a mural on the wall at the entrance of her restaurant to spruce it up, and they are currently helping her craft a plan to attract more customers.
“They are really willing to help me and I just have to do it. I’m really busy, I run the business by myself,” said Morales.
Organizers are hoping the Port Richmond Partnership will last for at least the next 10 to 20 years. They are also hoping the College of Staten Island and St. John’s University will follow Wagner’s lead and set up partnerships in other communities in the borough.