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Earth Day Event Grows Community Spirit in the South University Neighborhood

Author: Peter A. Lee, Associate Director, CommUniverCity

On Saturday April 19th, over 175 children, youth, and adults from the neighborhood located just south of San José State University celebrated Earth Day at O’Donnell’s Garden Park.  Visitors were treated to great food, music by an SJSU jazz quartet, a performance by the Creative Arts for Youth Dancers, activities, games, and prizes all in honor of environmental sustainability and community spirit. Located on William and South 6th Streets, the park is placed within the SJSU and southern university neighborhood area for students, residents, and families to play, have a nice picnic, or bask in the sun.

Tabling at Earth Day
Families learn about growing from one of the many tabling organizations at Earth Day O’Donnell Park

But O’Donnell’s Park was not always a safe and happy place to visit, according to community members.  A few years ago, drug dealers and frequent squatters began to take over the park and create an atmosphere of fear and insecurity, leading to a dramatic decline in the neighborhood’s use of the park.  Earth Day was the first joint effort among CommUniverCity San José, the South University Neighborhood Association, and St. Paul’s United Methodist Church to “reclaim” the park for the people and make it again an attractive and safe place to visit.  Instrumental were efforts of students and their professor through a new course about social justice taught in the School of Social Work to plan and participate in the event via CommUniverCity’s community-engaged learning model. Earth Day was just one of a series of recent events and projects that the neighborhood has hosted in their concerted efforts to revitalize O’Donnell’s, including a Halloween festival, family play-dates, and neighborhood parties.

Earth Day at O’Donnell’s, an event expected to be an annual fixture, was supported by about dozen groups, agencies, and organizations including Our City Forest, Sacred Heart Community Service, the City of San José’s Environmental Services Department, Sunday Friends, Friends of the Library, the Victorian Preservation Association, Next Door Solutions to Domestic Violence, the University Police Department, the San José Police Department, and four SJSU fraternities and sororities (Kappa Sigma, Alpha Xi Delta, Kappa Delta, and Alpha Omicron Pi).  Congratulations to our neighbors and partners on a successful Earth Day!

Stay tuned for future events at O’Donnell’s Garden Park.

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