1970: A Prototype Institute for Teaching Minority and Low-Income Students

By: Tony Cook
In September 1970, Delgado Junior College announced the formation of “A Prototype Institute for Training Teachers of Minority and Low Income Students.” The institute based its learning sessions on a study conducted earlier that year of the needs of such students by a group of Delgado faculty and students collaborating with community leaders experienced in working with “the disadvantaged.” From September 1970 through June 1971, the institute provided part-time training (one day every two weeks, after one full week) for a select group of Delgado faculty in improving methods of teaching “socio-economically deprived” students.

Seal of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, established in 1953.
In 1970-71, students at Delgado numbered about 4,700. About 25 percent of these were African American and about 35 percent of Delgado students came from families with annual incomes less than $6,000. Enrollment at Delgado was “open”—there were no particular educational requirements for admission. The faculty of the College numbered 149 that year. Many Delgado faculty identified themselves as having come from disadvantaged backgrounds and wanted help in reaching out to disadvantaged students.

In 1970, the St. Roch Market in the Bywater was a community gathering place.
 “Delgado had a long history of increasing involvement with this group of students,” notes the official report on the institute. “Delgado teachers were very much interested in this kind of learning.”
The perception of Delgado as a racially integrated college that could serve as a prototype for other junior colleges—especially in the Southern states—led to creation of the institute. The 20 faculty participants had from two and a half to 31 years of teaching experience, with educational backgrounds ranging from associate to doctoral degrees. They taught automotive mechanics, fine arts, and various other subjects.

The 1970s saw the emergence of national political leaders from the ranks of the Civil Rights movement.
Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, the institute’s training sessions focused on the cultural, economic, and educational backgrounds of disadvantaged students. It offered the faculty members assistance in dealing with the problems presented by the students, helping them understand how to use appropriate instructional materials, audiovisual aids, and counseling to improve the experience of the students at Delgado. Each participating faculty member received a $75 stipend.

Five Delgado students and five community leaders representing the city’s minority and low income population participated in the institute along with 20 Delgado faculty members. The first half of each session was a presentation by a guest lecturer. The second half was group discussion of how the lecturer’s expertise could be applied in classrooms, laboratories, and workshops at Delgado.
Social workers Dr. Harris K. Goldstein and Cherrie Lou Wood ran the institute. Faculty involved in planning the sessions included John Canerday, Dr. Newton Grant, and Dr. Peter Giarrusso. They, along with student Joseph Bonomolo and community representative Shirley Daniels, worked with Goldstein and Wood to keep the institute on track.

Mahalia Jackson and the Eureka Brass Band performed at the first New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in 1970.
 The experts brought in to lecture at each session were a diverse group. The first of two sessions in the month of December 1970 featured Dr. Alvin L. Betrand, an LSU sociology professor, whose talk was titled “Hereditary and Environmental Influences Affecting Learning of Low Income and Minority Students: Suggestions for Dealing with These Based on Empirical Research.” Other experts came from Tulane University, Xavier University, the University of South Carolina, City College of San Francisco, and Florida State University.

Dr. Marvin E. Thames, Delgado’s president, lived with his family on campus from 1956 until 1979.
 When it was over, the faculty participants concluded that more and better counseling programs would be the most important change Delgado could make to help disadvantaged students. Also viewed as important were improving new student orientation and offering more individualized instruction.

“As participants discovered over and over,” states the institute’s official report, “what was good teaching for the low-income student was helpful to all students.”

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