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TLS Program


What Our Students Say

Stephen Tremaine
founder of the New Orleans Project
From conversations with people whose homes in the projects have been demolished by the city government I experience the gravity of social analysis. Hauling rubble from a shuttered school building, a hundred of my peers argue political science through wheezing respirators. TLS gives me a direct and ongoing challenge: to see that theory and practice are never very far apart, and to understand that action is a form of critical thought.
Kate Crockford
Palestine Awareness Project
The problem I continually grapple with during the course of my project and my life is that of reconciling my anger and sadness with my happiness and optimism. I look around me, seeing piles of corpses and wrongs, and flowers growing from the places I’d least expect.
Jessica Neptune
Bard Prison Initiative poetry workshop
When I began working with the Bard Prison Initiative, I thought a lot about the importance of poetry and how the power of writing can get one through hard times. It not only made me feel that the work I’m doing is really important, but it also directly applies to how I think about writing in my own life. This semester I’ve really begun to see the work I’m doing at Beacon a little differently. Sometimes a woman will show up to tell us that she’s not staying in class this week because they are cooking chicken and she wants to go eat, or because an important pool tournament is going on. At first this is frustrating; I didn’t drive for an hour and a half in a big loose-steering, funky-smelling van to hear that chicken is more important than poetry. But as I think this through an important lesson emerges. Sometimes poetry is nothing less than a tool for survival, other times it’s nothing more than something to do on Thursday night. Either way, my efforts are never in vain. Last night at the final reading, one of the women told me: “You have no idea how much it means to us to just be able to be in the presence of people from the outside – people who are our peers.” I realize now that doing good work in the world doesn’t always mean big grandiose projects. Sometimes small gestures or our very presence is enough to make a huge difference in people’s lives”
Mujahed Sarsur
Bard Palestinian Youth Initiative
Hoping to avoid spreading controversy in the village, we waited until the day before the trip to tell our Palestinian youth campers that we are going to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. When we told them, the discussion got heated. "Why the heck are we going to the Holocaust Museum?" one student asked. "It was the only way we could get our permits to Jerusalem,” I answered, “and it will be a great learning experience, too." Another camper, who is studying at King’s Academy in Jordan, one of the elite high-schools in the Middle East, expressed concern, but then he was curious “to see how we would react to the scenes there." The discussion finally ended with indifference.

At the museum, we had an information session with an amazing tour guide who spoke Arabic. He asked the students what they knew about the Holocaust. The students were not sure about death numbers but what they knew for sure was that Israel is manipulating the issue for the continuation of the occupation. Sympathy was lost. We started the tour. After seeing videos, pictures, and real pairs of shoes from the victims, the disinterest of the students turned into curiosity, questions started to emerge: So why did Hitler do this? How many people were killed . . . really? An Israeli woman came to us crying, talking in Hebrew to our tour guide. She was stunned that our Arabic group was trying to understand the suffering of her Jewish race. At the end of the tour, we had another discussion session. Some transformation seemed to be happening. One student named Ahmad said he “would love to see my friends coming to this museum.”
Nick Shapiro
Activists Worldwide AIDS/HIV and Reproductive Education
My first TLS epiphany occurred in the process of translating curriculum into Indonesian, when I realized that sometimes being a good leader means stepping back and letting people do things inefficiently. Our translator, Jo, was intensely lonely, and placing him in charge made everything circuitous and frantic. Yet all of the unnecessary hassle he created was ultimately beneficial. It was important to him that he was in charge of something and that his time was occupied because he was rapidly decreasing his methadone doses and close to relapsing.
Ariana Jostad-Laswell, Eco-Discoverers
In Eco-Discoverers this semester, I’ve realized that the content we introduce the children to serves as a vehicle for letting them explore outdoors and learn to play together. At the beginning of the semester the barriers between the children from two different places/backgrounds were apparent. Lately, Jabber carries the younger boys on his back. Sophie leaves saying, “Brittany is my friend.” I want to keep going because we are doing something small to break down social barriers as well as teaching the difference between coniferous and deciduous trees.
Inmate at Eastern Correctional Facility
on the last night of class
What I liked about the Poetry Workshop is that you didn’t come in here to teach us. You came in to teach us how to teach ourselves. That’s why it worked.
Melanie Reilly
Astor Home for Children Bard Volunteers
TLS meetings are honest, brutal, and shocking. We’re living proof that people in the world want to make a difference and that people in the world will make a difference. Human beings are not caught in the current; we are the current.
Emily Wolff
The Children's Expressive Arts Project
2009 New Orleans Summer Camp
"We had a tree named Lucky, an oak that lives on the playground of Andrew H. Wilson Charter School in New Orleans. Every day, for five weeks, my campers journeyed out into the heat to visit Lucky. There was no need for a swing set or sidewalk chalk because there was always Lucky to climb, feed and tell stories to. He became one of us. At the end of the summer, the children decided it was imperative to throw Lucky a birthday party. We decorated him in pink and yellow streamers, prepared a lavish feast of mud cakes and joined in a huge chorus of 'Happy Birthday.’

 Providing children with the space to create a world for their ideas is the most essential aspect of our work as leaders and volunteers. My work with these children in New Orleans has helped to expand my capacity to imagine and create outside of existing educational structures."

Lindsay Stanley
The Upbeats
Teaching five rambunctious seven and eight years music theory every Sunday for an hour can be tiring but also inspiring. Working with a child every week to cement a piece of music takes a tremendous amount of energy by both teacher and student. Watching the kids push one another to improve, and seeing how they all feed off of one another is one of the most breathtaking forms of art I have been able to witness in the music world.   
Rosana Canova
Bard Palestinian Youth Initiative (BPYI)

Five days have passed and I have been busy all the time. Waking up at 7am and going to sleep a 1am. It’s been the first days and we’ve had to plan and organize and do it again. We and I are learning to be flexible and open. Even though I thought I was, I can be more. I can always make improvements and do more. I’m trying to give all my energy to this, to do my best.

This is everything. I’m learning so much. Wow. I only want to be here. I don’t think about anything else. I’m really in the present and it’s beautiful. We are going to be learning so much.

And Ramadan is tomorrow and we will start to fast and it will be hard. So much all the time. Ideas, thoughts, observations. Also, as a leader, I am too serious, I have too many expectations, I’m learning also how to be a leader. I am human. Today was very hard. Women feeling constrained, and the Occupation, constant. On top of life itself, all these restrictions, need to end Occupation and then negotiate. 
Daniela Anderson
Bard Leprosy Relief
We were on the second floor of Shanti Sewa Griha, a leprosy clinic in Kathmandu, Nepal. Something was tugging at my skirt. I looked down to find a little girl-- her body small and deformed, her hands clutching a dirty pair of blue flipflops. I crouched on the floor trying to help her fit her feet into the shoes. She insisted that I put her left shoe on her right foot. Finally when her feet were properly fitted into their improper shoes, she danced away smiling.