Teachers Look To Make Impact Outside Classroom

Teachers Look To Make Impact Outside Classroom

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First they listened to the Potsdam elementary students. Then Mohawk Club students from Massena High. Then everyone got to work at SUNY Potsdam on a project they say can revitalize St. Lawrence County. It's called The People Project.

“In order to do real community building, and rebuilding, it has to grow organically from the community themselves,” said Randi Weingarten, president of American Federation of Teachers.

It's only the second such project in the United States undertaken by the American Federation of Teachers. In St. Lawrence County, the teacher's union will build on the successful 2015 effort to preserve jobs at Alcoa in Massena.

“We help communities develop the strategies and the actions to thrive and to be places that people want to stay and people want to live,” said Weingarten.

Teachers, superintendents, politicians and others worked to develop new ways of doing things. They focused on healthcare, the local economy and community schools. At the end of the day, they pledged themselves to the effort.

How big an impact can teachers have outside the classroom? This project will answer that question. They say they can succeed because they're grassroots and union led.

“It's about a union really lifting up an entire community and it doesn't just touch public and private sectors. It touches every community member all across the county,” said Erin Covell, local coordinator, The People Project.

The People Project launched 6 months ago. Organizers say it's now entering the action phase. The national union has committed to the project for five years.

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