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College Going Culture

WRITING PARTNERSA mentor and her mentee smiling

[Last Edition: Spring 2022] Middle school children and SJSU service learners enrolled in an online Sociology class exchange a total of 6 letters throughout the semester.
● Blog Post: May 22, 2014, After a Semester of Being Pen Pals, Writing Partners Finally Meet

Since the beginning of their school year, Anne Darling students have been writing to pen pals from San Jose State University.

ENGINEERING IN ACTION Two students amazed by an electrical experiment

SJSU Engineering service leaners design, facilitate workshops to ignite a passion for science and technology among K-12 students in central San José.
● Blog Post: December 8, 2021, Reintroducing Science Day After the Height of a Pandemic
In the last edition of CommUniverCity’s time-honored Engineering in Action program brought together over 200 engineering students from the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering and over 400 elementary students from after-school programs and youth centers in the Downtown San José area. 

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Boy with Goggles blue filter

The Engineering in Action series of workshops took place on Friday, November 13th, Thursday November 19th and Friday, November 20th. Forty-nine groups of the Materials Engineering 25 and 153 classes visited the CORAL,ThinkTogether, McKinley Youth Center and Third Street Community Center after school programs. The materials engineering students prepared projects from a variety of different topics such as ceramics, diffusion, mechanical properties, magnetic properties, and a host of other subjects. Children from kindergarten to fifth grade had the opportunity to get their hands on fun-filled projects.

The workshops ran from one and a half hour to two hours, where  students created a 20 minute, hands-on experiment on related materials engineering topics in their course. K-5th grade students rotated from project to project around the tables in school cafeterias and halls at youth centers. The experiments engaged the students both in theory and in engineering. The projects emphasized how engineers build on science to make a product or process and how engineers optimize a product or process by iterating through a design process. Some of the children were able to take some of their experiments home to show their parents.

Spartan and student

The young children walked anxiously to see all the fun projects that awaited them in the cafeterias and classrooms. The engineering students were surprised to see how interested and engaged the elementary children were during the demonstrations. One student expressed how he was surprised to hear some really educated guesses coming from the children.

Special thanks to Dr. Guna Selvaduray, Dr. Raj Venkatesh, Dr. Michael Oye and Dr. Christina Peters for integrating this service learning project. This project would not have been made possible without their help and wonderful students.

A woman showing how a simple motor works

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Community Planning & Engagement

COMMUNITY LEADERSHIP PROGRAMTwo community members sitting around a table discussing

[Last Edition: Spring 2022] This 8-session facilitator and skill development program is delivered in Spanish. Exercises were used to support the Neighborhood Leaders’ aim to collaborate, communicate, and generate project-specific challenges and opportunities.
Blog Post: February 15, 2016, Community Leadership Program is on a Mission!
Margaret Mead once wrote, “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”


URBP Master’s students will work together through the East Santa clata Street to collect data on community ideas about design models for a complete street.




Raising awareness of community asset accessible to families in the neighborhood.
● Blog Post: April 26, 2017, Hunting for Memories – First Annual Spring Event a Hit!
Blog Post: March 29, 2018,2nd Annual Spartan Keys Egg Hunt!  
In 1975, the town of Homer, Georgia, won the Guinness Book of World Records for hiding 80,000 eggs for a town of 900 people to hunt. Since then, that record has been broken many times over. Our annual Spartan Keyes Egg Hunt & Pet Parade has a long way to go to beat that record, but it is always a fun attempt. 


For the last years, a team of residents, CommUniverCity staff, and San José State University students and faculty have worked diligently to organize and put on the S.U.N. Festival.
● Blog Post: April 12, 2018, Community Activates O´Donnell Garden Park
Related research identifies a clear association between park use and residents’ sense of security and between park use and reductions in anti-social behavior. Located at the corner of 6th and William Street, the diminutive half-acre park is the only public open space within the neighborhood. 

Growing Sustainably

GARDEN EDUCATION -3 SCHOOLS A group o parents and students receiving a class on gardening

Garden Education (3 schools) – In-class workshops, garden clubs for children using school garden as an outdoor living classroom to teach science, math, nutrition. In this 6-week series, children learn about the plants and how the meal connects to Latin American culture and languages


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CommUniverCity Garden Education interns assembling gardening kits
CommUniverCity Garden Education interns assembling gardening kits (Spring 2022)

Last summer, we had garden education workshops with participants from the Spartan Keyes Neighborhood Action Center and from the organization Project Hope.

We had a total of 69 participants, and held six in-person workshops. Some of the workshops were at Kelley park, and a few of them were at the Mckinley elementary school garden. All of the participants had the opportunity to harvest some vegetables, and were provided with gardening kits to start their own gardens.

We decided to embrace one of the tenants of environmental education by making our kits and workshops culturally relevant and themed around the traditional Latin American dish: Pico de gallo. The kits consisted of a large pot, a tomato plant, a hot pepper plant, an onion plant and a cilantro plant.

In the first workshop participants learned about each plant, and built their kits. In the second workshop we taught participants all about the origins of pico de gallo and where each plant comes from and how the meal connects to Latin American culture and languages. And in the final lesson, participants learned about the benefit of having native flowers around their garden and were also able to talk about how their kits did, and we were able to make pico de gallo from the food harvested from some of their kits!

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ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATIONA group o parents and students receiving a class on gardening

Environmental Education-Workshops for children that help them learn about the local environment and complement their science, math, and literacy skills. The creation of this program is aimed at improving environmental literacy of elementary students in CUC service area schools. It expands on the Watershed in a Box material to include more environmental topics beyond water and pollution issues in Coyote Creek, yet still focuses on the environmental issues and concepts related to San Jose neighborhoods.

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Virtual Cooking Matters lesson at Olinder
Fall 2021 Virtual Cooking Matters lesson at Olinder

Environmental literacy is of growing importance, especially in our downtown San Jose community where many families face daily environmental harms. These children have the potential with a little guidance to have a very impactful voice in leading to a greener future in San Jose and this project aims at guiding the voices and knowledge to give them the power to improve the environmental challenges our families are facing.

The goal of Environmental Education is to connect children to the basics of the environment by discussing local environments and environmental issues. This project gives students an introduction to environmental terms and literacy while also motivating them to see the environments in their neighborhoods.

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In this four-week series, children learn about healthy eating habits and how to make fun and healthy snacks, while learning the importance of a healthy diet.



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The Fall 2021 Cooking Matters project was a collaboration between CommUniverCity, several elementary schools, CORAL, and the San Jose State Public Health PH104 class taught by Dr. Gomez and Professor McClure Fuller.

There were a total of ten workshops that were taught at McKinley Elementary School, Olinder Elementary School, and the Spartan Keyes Action Center. Four workshops were taught at Olinder and the Spartan Keyes action center, and the remaining two workshops were at McKinley Elementary. The workshops were from October 21st through November 15th. There were five student groups, with a total of 35 students, that taught the workshops. Each student group taught two workshops. A total of 55 unduplicated and 154 duplicated elementary school students participated in the workshops.

Nutrition-based workshops that highlight the importance of eating a variety of healthy foods will equip students with the knowledge that will promote lifelong health. In the Cooking Matters workshops this semester, the students learned about food groups, how to read food labels, vitamins, and healthy food options. These concepts will ensure that students are aware of healthier food options, and how to consume a balanced diet.

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FIELD TRIP URBAN FARM A group o parents and students receiving a class on gardening

Field Trip Urban Farm – Trip for children to farms within the city of San José.
Emma Prusch Farm Regional Park is a located in the heart of East San José, at the crossing of King Road and Story Road. This park hosts a barn, a planting area, and a science center.


FIELD TRIP KELLY PARKA group o parents and students receiving a class on gardening

Field Trip Kelly ParkTrip for children to this San José park adjacent two other marvels; Japanese Garden, happy Hollow, and History Park.

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Virtual Field Trip to Kelly Park – Spring 2022

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Student Learning, Community Earning

RECORD CLEARANCEA consultant in tie speaking to a woman

[Last Edition: Spring 2022] SJSU Justice Studies students clear criminal convictions from records.
Many people are affected by their criminal history. More than 65 million adult Americans have a criminal record;1 in 4 adult Californians has an arrest or conviction record on file with the State (National Employment Law Project, 2012). With the help of volunteer attorneys and legal professionals, Justice Studies students have helped over 150 San José residents, including the homeless, clear their legal records.

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A consultant in tie speaking to a woman

The criminal justice system adversely and disproportionately affects Latinos and African-Americans in relation to their representation in the population The law limits how employers use criminal histories in employment decisions to protect civil rights

(Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 2012).

Clearing a Record Matters For…

  • Jobs
  • Housing
  • Family Unification
  • Public Assistance
  • Dignity
  • Fairness

Many people are unaware of the expungement remedies for which they are eligible.

A recent RCP poll showed only 13% of the 182 inmates surveyed knew that the law requires courts to dismiss most jail convictions upon successful completion of probation. Since 2010, the RCP has presented information regarding expungement law and procedure at 83 community education presentations with over 4050 people attending Since January 2012, the RCP has individually interviewed 348 people at Speed Screening sessions to advise them regarding their eligibility for expungement and appropriate next steps.

Record Clearance Project: Life-Changing for Students and Clients

Participants’ reflections on their RCP experience convey the power of the project to open new worlds of possibility.

When the judge said that she was granting the expungement [for my client], I could not help but cry a little. . . . I did not pursue this kind of internship for the thanks or gratitude, but to help someone change his life for the better. Mr. C was so happy that he had tears of joy, and his fiancée was so very proud of him . . . The feeling I had in my heart was something that I do not have words for . . . Knowing that I was able to help someone change the course of his life, better support his family, and give him a new sense of self is a chance of a lifetime. When the judge said that she was granting the expungement [for my client], I could not help but cry a little. . . . I did not pursue this kind of internship for the thanks or gratitude, but to help someone change his life for the better. Mr. C was so happy that he had tears of joy, and his fiancée was so very proud of him . . . The feeling I had in my heart was something that I do not have words for . . . Knowing that I was able to help someone change the course of his life, better support his family, and give him a new sense of self is a chance of a lifetime.

– Tanya DeBorba, RCP student


The RCP team accepted me as a client in July and began working on the petitions to expunge my record. Within a matter of weeks, I received an email with the written petitions.  I went to court twice in September. At both court dates, the judges cleared my record without hesitation. They were impressed with the well-written petitions. The judges also mentioned they were happy to see that I turned my life around. 

A month later, I was offered a job. They said I passed the background check. These are words I haven’t heard in a very long time.

-VN, a client served by RCP

Infographic of Record Clearance Project

Donate to the Record Clearance Project today by clicking on the image or going to:

Commendation from Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors

“Today the County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors commended the San Jose State University Record Clearance Project, which provides support to the Probation Adult Services Division, the Public Defender Office, and the Office of the District Attorney, by assisting community members to clear eligible criminal convictions from their records.

Last month, the Project received the Dean’s Award from the University’s Dean of the College of Applied Sciences and Arts, in recognition of its significant accomplishments in community service and education.

“I would like to thank everyone who has been involved in this vital partnership,” said Supervisor George Shirakawa, President County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors. “Because of your service to the community, ex-offenders have a chance at employment again, so they provide for their families and be productive. We appreciate your dedication and hard work.”” (Mitchell and Hinestrosa, 2012)

The Record Clearance Project was featured in The Metro: 

“Norma Burns knows hard times. Her adopted parents abused her as a child, and from the time she was 4 years old until she became an adult, she says, she was raped multiple times.

“No one protected me,” Burns says.

Following the worst of these incidents, Burns came home to California and joined the army. The service offered some stability, yet not long after she joined the army, she started drinking and smoking crack.

“I was living with this gentleman, and I was basically in an abusive relationship,” Burns recalls. “It just so happened in that particular night, him and I got into an argument, an altercation, and in my struggle in trying to get away, I scratched him right above his eyebrow, like as long as your fingernail.”

Police took pictures for evidence. She had no visible injuries, but her bodybuilder ex-boyfriend did. Burns, 53, was placed in jail for eight months and forced to take a year of domestic-violence classes.  A couple years went by after the fraud and assault charges, and Burns started to take steps to put her life back together, visiting the Center for Employment Training (CET) in 2006.

“While I was going there I had a police record, and I had asked them, ‘For the field of work that I’m getting into, can I actually get into that field with a record?’ They said, ‘Well, down the line, we’re going to have students come in from San Jose State. We’re going start a program here, to implement a program, to get your record expunged.’

“That was the turning point in my life,” Burns says. “I knew that I needed to slow down and get my life together”” (Ramalho, 2012).

Spartan Daily, SJSU’s newspaper, also covered the Record Clearance Project:  

“Lozano said she will be attending SJSU in the fall to further study sociology and the Record Clearance Project  “made it possible” for her to achieve her goals./p>

Several Record Clearance Project students and volunteers said being able to change the lives of clients is one of the program’s most rewarding aspects./p>

Hayman said the first time she exited the courtroom with her newly cleared client, they both cried./p>

She said it was an overwhelming feeling “knowing I helped her do that.”/p>

Stevenson said the Record Clearance Project gives people hope and second chances” (Hochmuth, 2013).


Hochmuth, Amanda. (2013, May 8). Record Clearance Projects Turns Convictions into Second Chances. Spartan Daily. Retrieved from

Mitchell, Gwendolyn and Hinestrosa, Marina. (2012, June 19). County Applauds Partnership with San Jose State University Record Clearance Project. Santa Clara County Office of Public Affairs. Retrieved from

Ramalho, Lena (2012, November 21). Record Clearance Project at San José State. The Metro. Retrieved from


Department of Justice Studies (2012, April). Advance, News from the San José State University Record Clearance Project. Spring 2011. Retrieved from

Department of Justice Studies (2012, April). Advance, News from the San José State University Record Clearance Project. Winter 2011. Retrieved from

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Hunger at Home: SJSU students develop materials for 4 branches of the nonprofit organization.




Advertising Campaigns: SJSU students develop ad campaigns for local businesses and nonprofits



YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS ACADEMY (YEA)A group of elementary schoolers showing their art

Young Entrepreneurs Academy is one of the newer additions to the CommUniverCity projects. The primary focus for YEA is to engage the youth into learning and developing entrepreneurial skills that are normally practiced in the real world of business. A few of these topics include marketing, management, operations, and budgeting.
Blog Post: March 10, 2021, Inspiring Young Entrepreneurs


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eLearning during the Pandemic: Lessons from Uncertainty, Spring 2022

Managing a Team and the Impact in the Classroom, Spring 2022

Jake, an interactive Minecraft movie, Spring 2022

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