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Urban Education

Project Coach Yesenia works with new and returning coaches

Improving the quality of America’s public schools is a critical challenge of the 21st century. Through its Urban Education Initiative (UEI), Smith College prepares students to meet this crucial task.

The Urban Education Initiative achieves this mission through two key strategies:

  1. Creating an educator pipeline through Urban Education Fellowships: Our January and May-June programs expand and diversify the pipeline of teachers through teaching and policy internships in New York City, Boston, Springfield, Chicago and other urban environments. First-hand experience in urban settings is the best way to understand how theoretical knowledge applies to real-world issues. Since 2000 more than 500 Smith College students have taken advantage of the UEI Fellowship’s immersive J-Term program.
  2. Providing an innovative, high-quality out of school lab program, Project Coach: Staffed and led by Smith students and faculty, Project Coach provides free educational enrichment and recreation to inner-city Springfield students who live just 20 miles from the Grécourt Gates.

We aspire to prepare educators with the experience, skill and capacity to work in diverse, high need communities. The skills they gain enable them to work in a broad range of roles, from social work to teaching to community health.

"I did not know the truth of the inequality of American schools before I was a part of the Urban Education Initiative. I opened my eyes to the crisis in urban education. Since my internship I have decided that being a part of education reform was my calling."
—Jaharra Lawson ’12, Teacher, Marion P. Thomas Charter School, Newark, NJ, STEM Teaching Fellow

Urban Education Fellowships

Teacher quality has been consistently identified as the most important school-based factor in student achievement. This fellowship is an on-the-ground apprenticeship enhanced by coursework, research and systemic reflection. At the core of Smith’s Urban Education Initiative is an immersive, full-time January teaching fellowship in the classrooms of alumnae mentors at a variety of urban partner schools. Once accepted into the fellowship, participating students receive an extensive six-week orientation to the social, economic and political conditions that impact what happens in the classroom.

Grécourt Gate: Making the Shift from Student to Teacher in NYC

Urban Education Fellows work under the guidance of faculty and staff from the Department of Education and Child Study. Fall semester orientation sessions and weekly discussion groups help prepare students for their experiences in the schools. Smith undergraduate students have worked in partner elementary, middle and high schools in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, and Springfield, MA. Students have the option of earning credit through conducting follow-up special studies projects in the spring semester.

Through these fellowships and other experiences, Smith students explore how children growing up in urban environments face challenges rooted in social, economic and political conditions that present significant obstacles to their development and their futures. The program prepares Smith students to become leaders in improving urban education by immersing them in the theoretical, practical and human issues facing urban youth and city schools.


Applications are available in early September and are due by the end of October.

If you have questions about the Urban Education Fellowship, please contact Jo Glading-DiLorenzo ( or Erin DeCou (

Project Coach

A Smith-Run Out-of-School Laboratory Program

Project Coach brings together Smith College undergraduate and graduate students to inspire and prepare Springfield teenagers to develop the capacity to be great coaches and mentors—to their peers, to children in their neighborhood, to their community, and to themselves.

Project Coach addresses the most formidable problems facing children in Springfield, and provides:

  • Academic support—including career, college and workforce mentoring – to teen coaches in a city with one of the highest dropout rates in MA to inspire teens to attend school, work hard and graduate.
  • Meaningful work that provides teens with vocational training and essential workforce skills.
  • After-school sports, wellness education and fitness activities to combat the disproportionate effects of asthma, diabetes and obesity on inner city children.

Get Involved with Project Coach

Smith graduate and undergraduate students support Project Coach by becoming mentors and tutors to Springfield teens, our coaches in training.

The Smith College-Project Coach Fellowship

An innovative tuition-free master's program that prepares aspiring coaches & teachers to work at the intersection of urban youth development and education. Visit the Project Coach website for details. The deadline is January 30.

Academic Coaching Opportunity

For Smith undergraduates enrolled in education courses requiring community service learning, or for students wanting to work one-on-one with Springfield youth. Academic Coaches meet weekly on Monday evenings with teenage students to help with homework, provide support with the college application process, or other projects identified by the students. Email Jo Glading-DiLorenzo ( or Erin DeCou ( for more information.