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It's Time To Rebuild Our Communities

It's Time To Rebuild Our CommunitiesAttracted by Tufts' nationally renowned experts on child development, former Vice President Al Gore was on campus on Friday to lead a conference on youth development.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [01.28.02] With his focus turned from politics to academics, former Vice President Al Gore has returned to his ongoing work creating a new curriculum in youth development and community building which he hopes to implement at colleges and universities around the country. And so it was no surprise that he turned to Tufts' nationally renowned experts in child development to help him host a conference on the subject at Tufts this past Friday.

Praising Tufts as "a leader in active citizenship," Gore told an audience of several hundred Tufts faculty, staff, students and alumni, as well as national and local community leaders, that it is time for a new way of thinking about building strong communities. College and universities need to play a larger role.

"It's difficult to knit community building into academia," Gore said, citing the problems with traditional teaching models that stress segmented -- rather than interdisciplinary -- approaches to problem solving.

"They've made it impossible to teach community building today. Our civilization has become completely wedded to this way of thinking," he said. "[Communities] are fragmented, like subdivisions, office complexes and parking lots. People don't know their neighbors."

And communities and families are suffering as a result.

But that is slowly beginning to change, thanks to a host of innovative people and programs.

Tufts graduate Marty Martinez -- who serves in the City of Somerville's Youth Service Department -- detailed two examples at the conference of community programs that are working in the local Boston area: the Mystic Learning Center and Somerville's Family Center.

"[The programs prove that] each person, whether it's a counselor, teacher, cafeteria aid, after-school program coordinator, youth worker, bus driver, parent or peer impacts the way that a young person will live his or her life," Martinez said.

Gore's ongoing work with Tufts' child development experts began in March 2001, when he invited Professor Rich Lerner to co-teach a class on family-centered community building at Middle Tennessee State University.

Their partnership has helped fuel a growing national trend.

"Rich Lerner is part of the core planning for this course [on community building], and now a number of other colleges are planning to do the same," Gore told the Tufts audience on Friday.

Following Friday's conference, The Boston Globe reported that Tufts President Lawrence Bacow presented Gore with a crystal Tufts elephant.

"Why give a Democrat a Republican symbol? Jumbo the elephant is Tufts' mascot," reported the newspaper.

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