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USM offers free Early College classes on race, social justice and social change to Maine high school students


The University of Southern Maine is reaching out to young people — particularly those still in high school — with a pair of new summer courses examining race, social justice and social change.

These online classes will be free to Maine high school students, who will earn college credit for the successful completion of each of the timely classes.

The class “Social Justice and Social Change” will include lectures, films, podcasts, readings and video conferences all aimed at introducing students to concepts and resources needed to understand contemporary social change energy and initiatives.

Students will be encouraged to bring their curiosity as they discuss current events and their context, said Kimberly Simmons, a professor in USM’s Women and Gender Studies Program.

“Especially right now as there is so much about anti-racism and feminism in the press and the streets, creating a space to try to understand the language and the concepts is an obligation of educators,” Simmons said.

The goal of these classes is to give young people the tools to clearly define their own values as they envision the future, including ideas about liberation, joy, freedom, safety, and equality.

Students will also be introduced to race and ethnic studies in a class taught by historian and Talbot Scholar Lance L.O. Gibbs. His class, which is currently being finalized, would deepen students' understanding of equity, inclusion and social justice.

Gibbs believes we have reached a teachable moment.

“Across the country and here in Maine, we are dealing with significant issues of race,” Gibbs said. These issues have always been here, but now they are in the fore. And in many cases, the young people are leading.”

Any student who wishes to sign up for one of the courses should reach out to Jamie Austin, USM’s assistant director of Registration & Scheduling Services via email at Emails should include a phone number where the student can be reached for course registration. Courses begin on July 6th with registration on a space available basis. These two courses are offered free to Maine high school students, including recent 2020 graduates.