NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Stephen F. Austin State University students in the community responsiveness and engaged advocacy in teacher education program recently celebrated the program’s first year by hosting a meet and greet with community partners and students.

Continuing its theme of collaboration with various departments and organizations, C.R.E.A.T.E. program participants partnered with students in a management in meal production course in the School of Human Sciences to serve food and beverages during the celebration.

The C.R.E.A.T.E. program is designed to provide a meaningful connection among SFA students who are teacher candidates, the community, school districts, and students and their families. It serves as a collaborative effort between the elementary education and secondary education departments.

During the fall and spring semesters, the 21 students in the first program cohort worked with the Nacogdoches Independent School District and community organizations to restore Zion Baptist Church and at the Nacogdoches Public Library.

“The program is life changing. We’ve been challenged in a lot of ways I feel like wouldn’t have happened in a normal education track,” said senior elementary education major Caitlyn Denning. “Instead of doing all of our field hours in a school, we went into the community to do volunteer work and visited with mentor families. We were able to be a presence in the community and make connections between the district and community.”

Unlike typical education tracks, students spend a full year in the same school district and classroom for their clinical teaching.

“Students who have chosen C.R.E.A.T.E. have the opportunity to see a school from the day it opens until the day it closes for summer. That’s something they are choosing to commit to along with community hours,” said Dr. Lauren Burrow, assistant professor of elementary education.

Because of the collaboration between elementary and secondary education, SFA students experience vertical alignment, meaning they receive a well-rounded understanding of a child’s education and development through elementary, middle and high school.

The program will continue in the fall semester. Students interested in joining can email Burrow at