A few weeks ago, Cherry TArts had the opportunity to visit the final day of class for a unique sociology course at Temple called “Urban Violence.” As may be typical for many classes on the last day of the semester, students presented findings from their group projects. But what was different about this was that the audience for the presentations was a group of high school students from Youth Build Charter School, located a few blocks south of Temple on Broad Street.  Also different was that some of the students making the presentations were also high school students.

Another thing different about this course — it was the brainchild of a student.

As a sophomore Max Cuddy enrolled in Temple’s Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program, which brings college students and Inside students — prisoners — together inside a corrections facility to study issues of social justice.

The class made a huge impression on Cuddy. “Bringing together two different groups with misconceptions of each other was really eye opening. I began to see interpersonal exchanges I would have never imagined possible,” he said.

Cuddy also found that the course permanently altered his notion of what an education could be. He drew on that experience as a model and jumping off point for another course — one he developed as part of his work with the Temple University Student Peace Alliance, for which he served as vice president.

The group lobbied for a course at Temple that would bring together college students with local high school students to investigate urban violence. Cuddy wrote the proposal for the special topics sociology course that “would be an in-depth analysis of why violence happens on both a macro and micro level and how to prevent violence on large and small scales.”

And by exposing the high school students to college, college work and college students, Cuddy thought it might help them realize college as a feasible option in their futures.

By many measures, the course was a success. “From the first day, the discussions were dynamic and were often led by the high school students,” said Cuddy.

“This class never would have gotten off the ground without Max’s persistence,” said Mary Stricker, associate professor of sociology at Temple and the course’s instructor. “He believed strongly in the need for more connections between Temple students and the people who live and go to school in the surrounding neighborhoods. Those connections were made, and are continuing to grow, simply because Max wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”

To learn more about Cuddy:

Commitment to peace leads Cuddy to exploration of urban violence

–Kim Fischer