||Lesson Plan: Context
Jose E. Velazquez teaches in the social studies department at University
High School of the Humanities in Newark, New Jersey. Born in Puerto Rico
and raised in Harlem in New York City, Jose Velazquez has taught in the
Newark Public Schools since 1987. Since 1997, he has taught United States
History, African-American Studies, Latino Studies, Sociology, and Law
in Action at University High School. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree
in history from Columbia University in New York, and has completed certification
programs in bilingual education at Kern College, master teaching at the
Princeton Center for Leadership Training, and critical thinking at Montclair
State University, all in New Jersey. Jose Velazquez also has been a cab
driver, journalist, student organizer, actor, and neighborhood youth counselor.
University High School of the Humanities is a small academic community,
offering a strong curriculum in the humanities and the sciences. It was
founded in 1969 as School Within A School (SWAS) to provide college preparatory
classes to Newark students. In 1977—when it became a school rather than
a program—it changed its name to University High School to indicate both
its purpose and proximity to major universities. Students face a battery
of standardized tests and must submit recommendations, including one from
their elementary school guidance counselor. This admissions process has
produced a student body composed of young people who have demonstrated
academic motivation, intellectual curiosity, and high achievement during
their elementary school years. The humanities focus of the school stresses
life-long learning. Teachers hope that students will return to the community
after college and make a political, social, and cultural impact on the
The program features seniors in Jose Velazquez’s Law in Action course.
The lesson culminates a 12-week unit developed by the national Student
Voices Project, which took place in all high schools in Newark, New Jersey,
during the spring 2002 semester, and culminated in the 2002 Newark mayoral
election. Student Voices encourages the civic engagement of young people
by bringing the study of a local political campaign into the classroom.
Participating teachers typically devote one class period per week to the
project. Classes meet daily for 42 minutes.
Student Voices is an initiative of the Annenberg Public Policy Center
of the University of Pennsylvania, with funding from the Annenberg Foundation
and The Pew Charitable Trusts. Student Voices projects have been implemented
in Los Angeles, San Antonio, Detroit, New York, Tulsa, and Seattle, in
addition to Newark.