Teaching a service-learning course in Fall 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic seemed like an impossible task. However, the opportunity for students to reflect on what they did with and for communities during this extraordinary time is one that I could not pass up. I taught Sociology of Health and Medicine with a focus on the health inequities associated with COVID-19. The students who decided to stay in the course and take part of the service-learning challenge were creative and imaginative of how they could work with communities safely. Many students conducted their service learning virtually by doing various types of volunteer work, such as being an academic tutor through the organization Mind Bubble, writing thank-you letters to Atlanta healthcare providers with Hands-on Atlanta, developing on-line music lessons for patrons of the Covenant House, creating videos by reading children’s books for the United Way of Greater Atlanta Online Storytime, providing virtual assistance and disaster relief to people all over the U.S. with the American Red Cross, making masks for Grady Hospital Frontline Workers, building tool boxes for Habitat for Humanity, or answering calls for a COVID-19 Hotline with the Good Samaritan Clinic. Other students worked with communities in person using safety precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as delivering meals through Open Hand Atlanta, planting trees with Trees Atlanta, packaging backpack kits with the Empty Stocking Fund, screening blood donors during blood drives with the American Red Cross, or working in various food pantries across Atlanta to address the increased risk of food insecurity during this time. The students engaged in these service-learning experiences (and others) and connected their learning with the course materials that focused on fundamental causes of health and illness. They also considered how their service learning aligned with the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. From education and access to food to personalized assistance and protective masks, all things lead to issues of health. Indeed, shifts were made, but not surprisingly, Georgia Tech students were up for the challenge.
— July 23,2020 —
Being the parent of an autistic child is hard enough. Being a single parent to one is even harder. When you are poor, black, and living in an area with few service providers, the job becomes a tangle of infuriating and heartbreaking complications, Georgia Institute of Technology sociologist Jennifer Singh reports in a new paper.
The paper, “Contextualizing the Social and Structural Constraints of Accessing Autism Services Among Single Black Female Caregivers,” details the experiences of 21 metro Atlanta women navigating a complex web of medical and bureaucratic hurdles to get help for their children.
Many were able to get an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis for their child through services provided through a community-based autism clinic covered by Medicaid, and even some initial care. Still, many faced enormous hurdles receiving ongoing treatment and support, according to Singh, an associate professor in the School of History and Sociology. Her research investigates autism service inequities at the intersection of race, social class, and gender.
Singh, who is co-founder of an autism disparities working group in Atlanta, said there are initiatives that could help. She is an advocate of a model called promotora de salud, or the community health worker model, that trains lay health educators to provide help and information to underserved communities. Singh and Hong cited a 2017 intervention study from the University of Chicago detailing a pilot study of such a model involving Latino parents. The study found that mothers of autistic children “reported improvements in their understanding of ASD, their child’s strengths and needs, and how to help their child develop and learn, and knowledge of their child’s rights,” according to Singh and Hong.
On July 14-15, 2020 several Georgia Tech students and faculty participated in an online conference on Experiences of Black STEM in the Ivory: A Call to Disruptive Action. The event is sponsored by the Molecular Engineering and Sciences Institute at the University of Washington, with participants from Boston University, the University of Chicago, the University of Texas at Austin, and Georgia Tech.
On day one, Georgia Tech graduate student Simone Douglas will moderate a discussion on empowering students. Tech graduate students Fabrice Bernhard, Nettie Brown, Alexis Pulliam, and Clinton Smith will join panelists from other universities. Manu Platt, associate professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, will moderate a faculty discussion that includes Raheem Beyah, Motorola Foundation Professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering; Ed Botchwey, associate professor in Biomedical Engineering; Tequila Harris, associate professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering; and panelists from other universities.
On July 15, Steve McLaughlin, dean and Southern Company Chair of the College of Engineering, will participate in Let’s Get Real: A Discussion With the Deans. And Jennifer Singh, associate professor in the School of History and Sociology, will moderate a discussion titled “Where Do We Go From Here: Disruptive Actions to Abolish Anti-Black Racism in STEM.” Douglas and Platt will be panelists.
Research Fellow at the Center for Civil and Human Rights interviewed Dr. Jennifer Singh about structural determinants of health in Atlanta. See Episode 7: Health Inequity
Excavating Atlanta is a podcast series which explores the history and residual effects of structural inequality in the City of Atlanta. This series looks more deeply at the city’s segregated history as well as some of the policies that shaped the city’s development in the last century, to become one of the most inequitable cities in the United States. Excavating Atlanta operates on the premise that we must contextualize history to understand today’s obstacles to progress.Weekly episodes will feature an expert in their field, who sheds light on the following topics: displacement, transportation, income inequality, voting rights, healthcare, and suburban poverty. We unearth problems that have been paved over for the purpose of creating a better future for all Atlantans.