In the heart of Ithaca, Nia Nunn—assistant professor in IC’s Department of Education—welcomes the community’s children to learn about music and join in open discussions about social justice issues.

With help from a team of IC graduate education students, Nia runs the Community Unity Music Education Program (CUMEP) at Ithaca’s Southside Community Center. The summer program offers a safe space for campers and counselors to have frank discussions about issues like homophobia, racism, Islamophobia, and other challenges to social justice.

For Nia (or, "Dr. Nia," as the children call her) the camp provides an opportunity for everyone to be involved in intense reflection about their position in society. And it’s not only the children who are learning. Nia says she gains a lot from the campers, as do the group of teacher candidates just starting their master’s work in childhood education. Many campers even go home and help educate their parents, who can learn not only social justice lessons but also, and perhaps more importantly, their child’s approach to difficult topics.

"People underestimate our youth and their ability to engage in anti-racist and socially conscious work," says Nia.

“Many adults are driven by ignorance, fear, and shame. We have to be inspired by the curiosity, creativity, and courage of our youth!”