TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – On Saturday, March 16, University of Alabama graduate student Candace Chambers will be flying to the Conference on College Composition and Communication in Portland, Oregon, to receive the 2017 Scholars for the Dream Travel Award from the National Council of Teachers of English.
The Scholars for the Dream Travel Award is given to emerging graduate students of color who are embarking on scholarship that is promising, said Dr. Michelle Robinson, an assistant professor of English at UA.
Recipients of the award receive a $750 travel award, a reception held in their honor and a one-year membership in NCTE and the conference.
“The program has been going on since 1993,” Robinson said. “In some ways, the Scholars for the Dream recipients function as a special interest group within the larger agency of CCCC. By receiving the award, Candace becomes a part of a group of scholars nationwide who have received this honor and support each other in the profession. I was a recipient of it in 2009.”
Chambers, 24, who is pursuing her master’s in English, said she was elated and surprised when she was notified that she won.
“It’s a reward for the work that I was able to engage in with the young girls,” she said. “I already thought the work I did with the girls was fulfilling, but it was great that other people saw how this work is important for young black girls in the community.”
For the past year and a half, Chambers has been involved in a community engagement project with Robinson and two other graduate students conducting a PhotoVoice study, a research method in which images are used to stimulate discussion about community issues with a participating group.
The participating group was a group of middle school girls in Hobson City, a town of 800 people in Calhoun County.
In conversations with the town’s mayor about the project, Robinson said the mayor mentioned two goals that she’d like to see accomplished. Those were youth engagement and historic preservation. So Robinson designed the project around those goals.
“We used PhotoVoice to get the girls to mesh with their own communities,” she said. “They were told to take photos of objects in their community that they wanted to know more about or they wanted to see changed.”
The girls took photos of the town’s municipal building, the community cemetery, the town’s single restaurant and its one store. They said they took photos of those buildings because they wanted to see them revitalized.
Chambers made the two-hour road trip to Hobson City with Robinson two weekends each month for about six months to work on the project, which was strictly extracurricular for her.
“I asked the girls why they took the photos, served as a mentor to the girls, helped them compose their writing and helped guide them when taking their photos,” she said.