By Janice Llanes Fabry
Rye Neck High School recently collaborated with the Community Resource Center in Mamaroneck to determine the role that accessibility to transportation plays in the lives of Hispanic/Latino immigrants. Through an enterprising elective, Action Research for Community Change, students work directly with various organizations to devise a research framework that will meet their needs.
“The course is a big adjustment from going to a more typical class, taking notes, and doing homework,” offered senior Matt Lawhon. “Action Research draws a lot more on creative ability and abstract reasoning. There are a lot more directions you can go in because you’re dealing with unanticipated complexities. It’s more representative of what you see in the real world.”
For this particular collaboration, Lawhon and a think tank made up of fellow students initially met with the Community Resource Center’s former Executive Director, Milan Bhatt. They discussed examining just how pivotal transportation accessibility is in the overall well being of new and undocumented immigrants. The students had the task of designing and conducting a study to provide the center’s staff with data on how immigrants use transportation to get to work, health care, and healthy food.
Enrichment Coordinator and Action Research instructor, Dr. Valerie Feit explained that because of the nature of the course, its syllabus is constantly evolving. It is contingent upon a community organization’s specific requirements. In the past, the students have tackled senior care and food insecurity.
This time around for the Community Resource Center, Lawhon and his peers pored through immigrant and transportation studies, reviewed national and local demographics, and then developed an anonymous survey to be completed by those who utilize the Center.
According to Feit, the unbiased research painted a portrait of a fragile community that struggles with job and income insecurity in an environment where transportation to work, health care, and supermarkets is a constant challenge.
Among the most startling findings was the fact that over half of the immigrants do not have a car to get to the closest supermarket three miles away. They either walk or rely on bicycles or public transportation. Moreover, almost a third end up to driving without a license to get to a job or a medical appointment.
“One of the lasting impressions I had was just how important transportation is to a population in this area even though there’s a high degree of affluence and almost everyone has a car,” said Lawhon. “It’s an interesting idea that high school students can do the kind of research that can have a positive impact on people’s lives.”
Rye Neck High School senior Matthew Lawhon