The Spring Festival began 4 years ago as a means of revitalizing the primary open space within the South University Neighborhood at O’Donnell Garden Park. The festival is a collaboration between residents, CommUniverCity, and San José State University students and faculty. The annual event has been instrumental in combating the unsafe and “negative” environment that once consisted of drug dealing and prostitution in the neighborhood area. The festival had two primary goals, (1) to create service learning engaging the local neighborhood coalitions to address this community-identified need, and (2) to plan and implement specific activities to reclaim the park for neighborhood families.
This year featured a special performance from Grupo Folklorico Luna y Sol de SJSU. The Department of Environmental Services, Our City Forest, Record Clearance Project, SIREN, St. Paul’s Methodist Church, Friends of the Dr. MLK Jr. Library, and KSJS Radio were a few of the groups that shared information with residents at the festival.
By the Numbers | 2018-19
20 SJSU students engaged
100 residents engaged
306 hours of service
- This annual festival continues to create a positive use for O’Donnell Garden Park in building a sense of community between SJSU student and SUN resident interaction.
- The event proves that an open space, once blight, can be revitalized and continue the promotion of social capital through community building, awareness and social justice.
- 92% of survey participants said that based on their experience at the festival they felt better about living there
- 76% of survey participants said that they are more interested in getting involved in their community as a result of attending this event
- Many local groups participated and taught residents about mental health, sustainable living, environmental services, and more.
- 85% of survey participants said that they enjoyed this event
Elizabeth Figueroa, special programs manager, spoke with a resident at the Biblioteca Latinoamericana table who didn’t have any kids with her. Her kids are all grown up and were out of town with the grandkids. She has lived in the neighborhood, one block from the park, for 20 years (before the park was built) and has been invited to events like this before, but this was her first time at this particular event. “Bellisimo” she said about the event as we each created a clothespin caterpillar craft together.
“My grandkids will regret not coming,” she said as she fanned out all the information she gathered from each resource table for me to see. Clearly, she was very appreciative of the activities and information available from the resource tables.
She described herself as someone who loves to read, so her first time venturing out to the S.U.N. Festival was not a letdown – especially when she learned all the books from Friends of King Library were free! Her grandkids may have been out of town, but now she has some free books to read and relax until they return. Another participant lives on 7th street and comes to the park regularly. Her friend told her this was happening today. “Muy divertido!” she said about the event.
“It showed me how passionate I am in working with marketing and with setting up events. It also motivated me personally to become more active in community services.”
–SJSU BUS 134B student