Dr. Sarah Hobson, founder and President of Community Allies, LLC. received her Ph.D. in Reading, Writing, and Literacy from the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. She served as an Assistant Professor in Adolescence English Education at The State University of New York at Cortland where she taught courses in language acquisition, grammar, the teaching of writing, and digital literacies. She most recently taught literacy assessment at the University of Missouri St. Louis. Dr. Hobson publishes, partners, and collaboratively leads with national networks of community-engaged scholars through URBAN, an interdisciplinary community-engaged network of scholars and the American Educational Research Association Special Interest Group, Grassroots Community and Youth Organizing.
She began her career in 1998 as a classroom teacher of high school French, English, and Humanities. In 2003, she completed her Masters in English from the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College. From 2003-2006, she returned to St. Louis, MO, her hometown, to pursue a range of professional development opportunities with the St. Louis Gateway Writing Project, the Literacy for Social Justice Teacher Research Group, and Springboard for Learning.
In 2012, Dr. Hobson completed her doctorate. Her dissertation focused on the need for providing compelling educational experiences for adolescents in their development of cultural literacy and life long civic skills. In particular, she supported the use of student-generated ethnodramas and video productions. Dr. Hobson founded Community Allies, LLC. to carry on this work and to continue research documenting its success.
While completing her doctorate, she designed and implemented a number of in-school, content-specific elective classes utilizing drama, playwriting, and ethnodrama. She has expanded her implementation and research with a 2016 after-school program in St. Louis, introducing junior and senior high school students to ethnodramatic film making. Her 2017 program was with middle and high school students at the Youth & Family Center in North St. Louis. Students created a research-based play that focused on the arrival of the National Geospatial Agency to their communities. In 2017-2018, Grand Center Arts Academy ethnodrama students presented their research into housing inequalities at the Fair Housing Conference.
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Educational institutions are products of systemic policies that for years have contributed to various discriminatory practices that affect youth and communities similarly and differently. Dr. Hobson’s ethnodramatic programming, researched for over 10 years, helps youth acquire sophisticated understandings of societal processes that hinder progress. Throughout the programming, youth gain communication skills that help them begin to interrupt these practices as they learn where and how they can advocate for themselves and others. Schools and communities in turn access new ways of learning from youth the ethical complexities they have inherited. As students use their research to teach others, administrators, teachers, parents, and communities access much-needed healing.
Dr. Hobson’s ethnodrama programs are multi-faceted. They are the result of years of teaching and research and must be implemented with multi-dimensional educational knowledge and care. They require institutional support, staff support, careful collaborative research and documentation, and constant reflection and interrogation. When implemented with the right support and investment, they help transform institutionalized cultures, opening up new possibilities for teaching and learning that expand youth, teacher, and administrator agency and advocacy.