This Tuesday, on August 13, 2013, we partnered with Santa Clara University (SCU) to host our first collective meeting with the Greater Washington community. We invited community-based organizations to share the major themes and interests of the Greater Washington neighborhood. The meeting generated non-stop conversation about the neighborhood’s assets and needs among the thirty-five community leaders in attendance.
We kicked off the meeting with Laurie Laird, the Director of Community-Based Learning at Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education at SCU and Board President of the Sacred Heart Community Service Agency. Laurie welcomed the community members and introduced an overview of the progress and goals of Santa Clara University’s partnership with the Greater Washington Community Assessment.
Then our Executive Director Dayana Salazar explained how San José State University (SJSU) and CommUniverCity San José would bring a new focus to the project by including an Urban & Regional Planning (URBP) class to study and learn from the neighborhood and identify ways that SCU and SJSU can collaborate to address the needs of the community. The project will also be engaging SJSU Anthropology students under the guidance of Professor Chuck Darrah, and SCU students through Jackie Schmidt-Posner, Professor of Practice and Director of Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative with SCU School of Business.
Our Community Director Imelda Rodriguez asked the community members and leaders to identify major themes of the neighborhood’s needs, which the collaboration would address. Participants identified the following major themes that need to be improved in the Washington neighborhood:
- Youth programs, schools, and education
- Safety (addressing issues of prostitution, gangs, and burglary)
- Homelessness (including the needs of the homeless)
- Quality of life
- Basic needs and access to fresh, healthy food
- Absentee landlords
- Walkability of the community, and walking safety
When Imelda asked them to identify their community’s strengths, they shared the following assets:
- The work already done by Santa Clara University
- Experienced neighborhood leaders
- Parent involvement at schools
- Many community-based agencies and their frequent collaboration
- Schools and community center programs
- Programs for at-risk youth
- Center for Employment Training, particularly their work on citizenship and immigration assistance
- Biblioteca Latinoamericana – the public library
- A sense of place and beautiful architecture
Finally, Irene Cermeño, SCU’s Thriving Neighborhoods Program Director, closed by announcing future opportunities to give input and interact with the project team, which include:
- Blog updates on the Greater Washington Community Assessment & Prioritization collaboration “The Hub,” or “el Centro.”
- “The Hub”: Open Urban Planning Studio with SJSU URBP 201 class every Wednesday at the Washington United Youth Center (921 S. 1st St. # B, San José, CA 95110) from 4:30pm-10pm from August 28, 2013 – December 4, 2013, except November 27, 2013. URBP 201 is taught by Hector Fernando Burga, PhD Candidate at U.C. Berkeley and Lecturer at SJSU’s Urban and Regional Planning Department.
We are excited for our partnership with SCU’s project team.
Together, we can work towards empowering our community members and leaders to build social capital with our community’s assets and address the major issues that impact our neighborhoods.
Greg Currey and Yan Yin Choy