Kellogg Foundation Award

CommUniverCity

CommUniverCity San Jose engages local residents, SJSU faculty members and students, and city officials in learning projects that accomplish neighborhood-defined goals (David Schmitz photo).

Media contacts:
David Edelson, APLU, 202-478-6072
Pat Harris, SJSU, 408-924-1748

In recognition of its extraordinary community outreach initiatives, four members of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, including San Jose State, have been selected as regional recipients of the 2015 W.K. Kellogg Foundation Community Engagement Scholarship Award.

As regional winners, SJSU, Texas Tech University, the University of Minnesota, and the University of New Hampshire will represent and compete for the national C. Peter Magrath Community Engagement Scholarship Award, which will be presented during the APLU Annual Meeting Nov. 15-17 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The C. Peter Magrath Community Engagement Scholarship Award includes a sculpture and $20,000 prize. The three regional winners not chosen for the Magrath award will each receive a cash prize of $5,000.

Award history

Since 2006, APLU and the Engagement Scholarship Consortium, with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, have partnered to honor the engagement, scholarship, and partnerships of four-year public universities.

The award recognizes programs that demonstrate how colleges and universities have redesigned their learning, discovery, and engagement missions to become even more involved with their communities. The national award is named for C. Peter Magrath, APLU president from 1992 to 2005.

The Magrath Awards reward the significant impact our universities make in their communities, states, and across the nation as well as the world,” said APLU President Peter McPherson.

“This year’s regional award winners exemplify the broad principles of community-based outreach and engagement embraced by the public university community. We salute each of these model programs that feature students, faculty and administrators working in their community to improve the quality of life for all.”

A team of community engagement specialists judged this round of the award.  A second team will pick the national winner following presentations at the 2015 National Engagement Scholarship Conference in September.

About CommUniverCity San Jose

CommUniverCity San Jose is a unique community-university-city partnership that engages local residents with faculty members and students at San Jose State and city staff members in learning projects that accomplish neighborhood-defined goals. With nearly one million residents, San Jose is characterized by vast economic inequality and profound challenges with respect to poverty, unemployment, homelessness, gang violence, and low educational attainment.

To address these needs, CommUniverCity creates and supports 50 community action projects annually. Projects range from after-school tutoring and nutrition education to adult financial literacy classes. CommUniverCity’s structure can be described as three legs of a stable stool, with SJSU, the city of San Jose, and local organizations and residents each providing equal support for project identification and implementation.

SJSU’s role in this “town-gown” (city-university) partnership is threefold. First, faculty members apply subject-matter expertise to solve real-world problems. Second, students participate in community-engaged learning projects. Third, SJSU provides financial and administrative support. Over the past decade, this consistent engagement of faculty and students has generated a multitude of short-term studies and longer-term research, including a five-year comparison of social capital indicators within the service area.

About San Jose State

The founding campus of the 23-campus California State University system, San Jose State provides a comprehensive university education, granting bachelor’s and master’s degrees in 134 areas of study with 110 concentrations—offered through its eight colleges.

With more than 30,000 students and nearly 4,000 employees, San Jose State continues to be an essential partner in the economic, cultural and social development of Silicon Valley and the state, annually contributing more than 7,000 graduates to the workforce.

The university is immensely proud of the accomplishments of its more than 220,000 alumni, 60 percent of whom live and work in the Bay Area.

neighborhood checkin

Helping Build Healthy Communities

neighborhood conference poster

CommUniverCity San Jose is an event co-organizer.

Media contact: Pat Harris, 408-924-1748

SAN JOSE, Calif.— More than 400 neighborhood leaders and residents from across Santa Clara County with a shared interest in building healthy communities will gather Oct. 11 at the sixth annual Silicon Valley Neighborhood Development Training Conference. Held at San Jose State, the conference will sell out. Online registration ends Oct. 8. Admission is $10.

“Healthy communities start with civic engagements—and that requires both building networks and having hard conversations about the challenges facing our world,” said Manuel Pastor, keynote speaker and professor of Sociology and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. “With rapid demographic change and widening income gaps, such dialogue—and action—is more important than ever.”

Pastor’s research focuses on the economic, environmental and social conditions facing low-income urban communities in the United States. He will offer his perspective on the effects of demographic changes taking place in Silicon Valley and beyond.

This popular event is co-organized by CommUniverCity San Jose, San Jose State, Neighborhood Housing Services of Silicon Valley, United Neighborhoods of Santa Clara County and the city of San Jose. The lead sponsor is Fremont Bank with other major sponsors including the San Jose Housing Department, U.S. Bank, Chase Bank and California Bank & Trust.

Through a wide range of interactive workshops led by local experts, the conference offers practical strategies and tips for creating great neighborhoods. Improving public safety, dealing with the drought, assessing the November elections, solving transportation problems, and addressing homelessness are just a few of the topics that will be covered.

Participants will be able to engage in an open conversation and networking with local government officials including San Jose Police Chief Larry Esquivel on how to strengthen relationships with police officers. The conference will also feature a large resource fair where participants can connect with a wide variety of local nonprofit service organizations and government agencies.

San Jose State — Silicon Valley’s largest institution of higher learning with 30,000 students and 3,740 employees — is part of the California State University system. SJSU’s 154-acre downtown campus anchors the nation’s 10th largest city.

 

 

San Jose Mercury News: CommUniverCity is a Civic Gift

Posted by the San Jose Mercury News Dec. 24, 2013.

(Editor’s note: The following editorial praises a collaboration among the city, university and community.)

On Christmas Day, we have a tradition of honoring what we see as the greatest civic gift to our community in the past year. Often it’s a matter of recognizing a gift that’s been giving for years but jumps out because of a stellar accomplishment.

So it is that we finally honor CommUniverCity, an eight-year partnership of San Jose State, the city and — most important — neighborhoods that surround the campus. It is the very ideal of a town-gown collaboration rarely seen in university neighborhoods and certainly not in San Jose until visionaries like Terry Christensen and Dayana Salazar made it happen.

Read the full story.

Motorola Solutions Foundation Gives $30,000

Motorola Solutions Foundation Gives $30,000 to Support Youth STEM Network

 

Motorola Solutions Foundation Gives $30,000

SJSU students collaborate with lead instructors to teach rigorous content modules in after school programs (CommUniverCity San Jose photo).

Motorola Solutions Foundation joins Intel as a lead sponsor of the Youth STEM Network (YSN) program. YSN is a partnership that is substantially increasing opportunities for San Jose’s youth to engage in activities related to disciplines of local significance and projected growth: solar energy and cybersecurity.

The Jay Pinson STEM Education Program is collaborating with the CORAL after school program of the Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County, CommUniverCity San Jose, the Department of Communication Studies and the Scientists for Tomorrow and CyberWatch programs to implement the exciting initiative.

Students in the Communication Studies 157 course collaborate with lead instructors to teach rigorous content modules in these critical STEM areas. Program instructors recently participated in a CyberSTEM Program professional development session instructed by the director and senior researcher at CyberWatch.

Starting in early October 2013, 100 youth in CORAL afterschool programs will participate in 25 hours of YSN programming aimed at increasing their content and procedural knowledge and understanding of career opportunities in solar energy and cybersecurity.

Wells Fargo Gives $20,000 for Financial Literacy

Money and Marketing Smarts

Through CommUniverCity’s Money Matters and Marketing Smarts programs, SJSU business students have helped three micro-entrepreneurs who own a cleaning business, a taco stand and a daycare (Bobbi Makani photo).

Wells Fargo has made a $20,000 gift in support of CommUniverCity’s Money Matters and Marketing Smarts programs.

Through these initiatives, more than 300 San Jose State students have conducted financial and tax literacy workshops for 1,300 Central San Jose residents of all ages over the past seven years.

SJSU students teach the curriculum in English and Spanish, the main languages spoken in the community.

Nearly 60 percent of Central San Jose residents speak a language other than English at home, and 68 percent earn less than the $84,000 required in Santa Clara County to meet basic needs.

Money and Marketing Smarts

Youngsters create coin banks as part of CommUniverCity’s Money Matters and Marketing Smarts programs (Viridiana Cisneros photo).

Under the direction of professors Bobbi Makani and Marilyn Easter, SJSU business students have also provided marketing consulting services to three women micro-entrepreneurs who own a cleaning business, a taco stand and a daycare.

The marketing and decision sciences students gain hands-on experience and the business owners receive research otherwise inaccessible to them due to time constraints and language barriers.

The effort has one more important fringe benefit. Students met with the entrepreneurs in the field and at San Jose State.

“That’s a place I never thought someone like me would ever get a chance to set foot in,” said one of the businesswomen.

CommUniverCity San Jose engages residents and students in service-learning projects focusing on neighborhood-driven goals through a cross-sector partnership with the City of San Jose, the residents of Central San Jose neighborhoods, and SJSU students.

Professor of Urban and Regional Planning Dayana Salazar serves as executive director.

LA Times: Garden to Table Effort Bears Fruit

Communivercity

The Los Angeles Times covers the garden-to-table project aided by SJSU students (SJSU photo).

Posted by the Los Angeles Times Aug. 3, 2013.

By Lee Romney

SAN JOSE — Dario Lerma peered over a front fence in his neighborhood at verdant garden beds bursting with tomatoes, squash and sunflowers.

The retired Santa Clara County worker has lived in this pocket of central San Jose for a quarter of a century. So when San Jose State teamed with the city to offer residents a hand in improving the onetime gang haven, Lerma was on board.

Since 2005, thousands of students have added their intellectual and physical muscle to the city’s resources — improving life in a cluster of predominantly immigrant neighborhoods while nurturing community leaders.

The project that brought the lush harvest to this particular frontyard is one that aims to create a local food supply where hunger is prevalent and fresh foods are not.

Started two years ago, Garden to Table so far has spawned seven shared gardens, a gleaning program that yields nearly 2,000 pounds of fruit per month and nutrition classes that emphasize healthy, locally sourced meals.

“That’s the Espinozas’; they live in an apartment,” said Lerma, 66, pointing to a raised bed. “That one’s Jose Ramos’, from the trailer park.”

With a standing invitation to share in the yield, he dashed through the gate to snatch a few fat zucchini.

Silicon Valley once was so fertile that it was dubbed the Valley of Heart’s Desire. Garden to Table is putting that history to work in an area bypassed by the region’s tech-industry prosperity.

Although many town-gown efforts dispatch students to neighborhoods to volunteer or do research, Garden to Table’s parent organization, CommUniverCity, launches only projects that residents have chosen to foster.

“So often what happens with these service learning projects is you come in and then you’re gone,” said Hilary Nixon, an associate professor of urban and regional planning and Garden to Table’s faculty advisor. “The goal here is to really focus on the needs of the neighborhood, to empower the neighbors.”

Currently expanding to all of central San Jose, CommUniverCity has until now focused on Five Wounds/Brookwood Terrace, a 11/2 square-mile community that for nearly a century has been the heart of Portuguese life in the valley. More-recent arrivals have come predominantly from Mexico. The area’s median household income is about half that of the county’s, and three-fourths of its residents speak a language other than English in their homes.

While the city has worked to improve street lighting and clean up graffiti, more than 11,000 university students have teamed with residents on about 200 projects to improve education, the environment, health and more.

“We’d focus on getting neighborhoods clean and safe, and San Jose State was able to then come in and say: ‘Your basic needs are being met, how can we make your lives better?'” said Paul Pereira, an aide to Councilman Sam Liccardo, a key CommUniverCity backer.

Justice studies students have worked to expunge residents’ criminal records. Business students have honed merchant marketing plans, and urban planning students have helped residents draft their dream for a planned regional transit station: a mixed-use village with a town square connected to a network of trails on abandoned railroad rights-of-way. The vision, incorporated into San Jose’s general plan, is expected to receive formal approval this fall.

“It’s about the present and the future,” said Lerma, who in addition to picking fruit for Garden to Table has helped plan CommUniverCity’s annual Halloween festival, educating residents about sustainability and helping parents craft costumes from recycled materials. “We do it because there’s pride. It’s our neighborhood. We see the outcome, which is the most beautiful part.”

Garden to Table grew from the same seed.

The raised garden beds that Lerma recently admired are in the frontyard of Sami Monsur, 48, multilingual resource analyst at San Jose State.

When a few residents came to her, in her capacity as president of the neighborhood association, Monsur recalled, “I said, ‘You know, I’ve been wanting to get rid of my front lawn. Why don’t we find two other families?'”

At the first planning meeting in 2011, Imelda Rodriguez — CommUniverCity’s no-nonsense community director — walked in with Graham Stitchman, a lanky electrician who had been picking fruit from his own trees, along with his neighbors’, and donating the bounty to the Olinder Food Program down the street.

“The gleaning program was his dream,” said Stitchman’s wife, Sandra.

He teamed up with Zach Lewis, 29, an urban farming devotee and San Jose State grad student in urban planning who turned Garden to Table into his master’s project.

At first, he and Stitchman walked the neighborhoods once a week, jotting down the location of each loquat and persimmon tree. Soon, sociology students were helping. Sunnyvale-based Trimble Navigation donated some hand-held GPS devices. A new crop of students entered mounds of data and followed up with residents, securing picking agreements.

Ruperto Garza, 47, who had been homeless for several years, joined the effort, becoming Stitchman’s right-hand man and translator. (Until that point, he’d been trying to get by on less-than-fluent Spanish.) Garza now orchestrates twice-weekly fruit giveaways at the Olinder program’s small community hall.

Once a month, the glean’s delights also are included in a local food bank’s bigger giveaway.

Ramona Ramirez showed up on a recent Monday morning pushing a double stroller — one seat occupied by the 10-month-old baby girl she cares for, the other reserved for the bounty she was about to receive.

Her husband works maintenance at a San Jose cemetery, she said, but times are tight in their household, which includes a 15-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son.

“I was going to buy a watermelon this week but I couldn’t afford it. The corn either,” said Ramirez, 52, whose stroller soon bulged with both, along with plums and lemons recently plucked from local trees.

On previous visits, the native of Mexico’s state of Zacatecas watched nutrition students with Garden to Table’s “green chef” program demonstrate a quick and healthy dish of carrots and potatoes cooked on portable burners. They omitted the lard Ramirez is accustomed to using.

In the last two years, the communal gardens have grown in number.

Urban planning students perusing GoogleMaps for locations zoomed in on one weedy lot with good sun exposure that was part of a complex of beige stucco bungalows half a mile from Monsur’s yard. When they visited, they found an eager participant.

A gardener for a county park, Jose Calderon grew up in a small village in Michoacan, Mexico, where his family farmed their own food. He had had his eye on the lot before Garden to Table got the landlord’s approval and brought in volunteer muscle to transform the space.

“They helped haul new soil in wheelbarrows,” said Calderon, 39, who now oversees the composting system. Around him were chilis, carrots and onions in raised beds cultivated by six families.

His own children, ages 5 and 12, sometimes spend so much time working the family plot that he has to drag them in after dark, he said. And the gang members who used to frequent the block have moved on.

Garden to Table now is poised to break off from CommUniverCity as a nonprofit, with Lewis at the helm, and in September will launch a commercial farm on a vacant lot. The goal: to raise enough money through the sale of market-rate herbs, heirloom produce, honey and eggs to wean the charitable portion of the organization off its grant funding. (CommUniverCity will continue with a complementary nutrition project.)

During a recent sustainability fair, Garden To Table’s team of residents and students spread the word.

“Do you have a fruit tree at your house?” sociology senior Samuel Barba asked a couple in Spanish. When the answer was yes, a cherry, Barba inquired whether it was ready for picking.

Barba handed the pair a form so they could add their tree to a list of 2,300 others close to campus. Nearby, a resident invited visitors to sniff some freshly picked oregano, romero (rosemary) andestafiate (sage).

Barba, who at 47 is looking to switch careers from maintenance to social service, had helped with gleaning, mapping and the making of marmalade. The experience, he said, was “an eye opener. Why are you picking it? You’re picking it for the people who need it.”

Students and Small Business: Learning Together

Business Students Help Micro Entrepreneurs Succeed

Of the five micro entrepreneurs who presented their product or service in class, the students chose three: a cleaning business, a taco stand and a daycare (Jessica Olthuf photo).

This semester, the BUS2 134B Integrated Marketing Communications class within the College of Business will take a new approach to learning by serving as consultants to small businesses in neighborhoods near campus.

“Our students will work with real businesses and real individuals with real issues when it comes to their area of expertise,” said Professor of Marketing and Decision Sciences Marilyn Easter.

The three-unit capstone course focuses on using effective communications marketing solutions to a targeted audience, mainly through promotions.

The businesses are in or near neighborhoods served by CommUniverCity, a collaborative project of the Five Wounds/Brookwood Terrace communities east of campus, SJSU and the city of San Jose.

SJSU concentrates service-learning classes in these neighborhoods with the goal of building community and engaging students in civic life.

Business Students Help Micro Entrepreneurs Succeed

Throughout the semester, student consultants will work in teams to apply skills that they are learning in class to create the best marketing promotional plan (Jessica Olthuf photo).

Student consultants

Throughout the semester, student consultants will work in teams to apply skills they are learning in class to create marketing promotional plans.

Of the five micro entrepreneurs who presented their products or services to the class, the students, with guidance from professors and staff, chose three: a cleaning business, a taco stand and a daycare.

John Dance is one of 18 students in the class who will apply theory to practice.

“I’m learning what it takes to build a solid business plan,” Dance said. “I’m excited to acquire knowledge from the class.”

Building community

According to Easter, the goal of the pilot program is to create an ongoing project that allows micro entrepreneurs to work with SJSU students and to become part of the San Jose State community.

Already, the project has brought together a cross disciplinary team including several SJSU marketing instructors and students, local residents, CommUniverCity leaders and Catholic Charities staff members.

“It’s a fantastic relationship that everyone can benefit from,” Easter said.

 

Garden to Table Garners Support

Garden to Table Garners Support

An effort to provide fresh fruits and veggies to families living near our very urban campus is gathering support — from Bank of America, Mayor Reed and you! (Sami Monsur photo)

An effort to provide fresh fruits and veggies to families living near our very urban campus is gathering support.

The CommUniverCity Garden to Table program will be highlighted prior to San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed’s State of the City Address on Feb. 7.

“Each council district chooses an organization … that has gone to extraordinary lengths to better the community and we are thrilled to recognize the great work Garden to Table is doing in our neighborhoods,” wrote Councilmember Sam Liccardo, whose district includes downtown San Jose.

Also, Bank of America recently made a $10,000 gift to the program, and organizers have initiated a Kickstarter campaign, spearheaded by Zach Lewis, who completed his master’s in urban planning this past December.

“I believe this is the future,” Lewis wrote, “not just because of the way it utilizes resources more efficiently, reduces our carbon footprint, and helps create healthier communities, but also because of the cultural force it represents in the heart of our cities, as well as the potential economics that could be generated by truly local food system.”

CommUniverCity builds community by engaging residents and students in service learning projects that accomplish neighborhood-driven goals. Garden to Table (G2T) is an urban agriculture project that aims to increase the access, availability and affordability of sustainably grown and harvested food resources in low income neighborhoods.

Among the program’s many achievements in just a few years are the following:

  • G2T has installed gardens in 19 homes and two gardens are shared with neighbors who do not have land to garden.
  • G2T is building a community garden and education center and two school gardens.
  • G2T has conducted nutrition and cooking classes for over 40 families, and launched an apartment gardening program with apartment managers and residents to build gardens and provide gardening workshops for growing, harvesting and preparing food (10 families and four at-risk youths are currently gardening at three apartment gardens established in 2012).
  • With the help of resident volunteers, CommUniverCity’s G2T has harvested over 15,000 pounds of surplus fruits and vegetables grown in Central San Jose neighborhoods and distributed fruit to the 150 families in need that participate weekly in the Olinder Food program, a community-run food bank.

Follow G2T on Facebook.

CommUniverCity San Jose Receives $20,000 Gift from Wells Fargo

CommUniverCity San Jose Receives $20,000 Gift from Wells Fargo

CommUniverCity San Jose Receives $20,000 Gift from Wells Fargo

President Qayoumi receives a $20,000 check from Jeff Rademann, Wells Fargo president, Santa Clara Valley market (Diane Satriano photo).

By Pat Lopes Harris, Media Relations Director

San Jose State University has received a $20,000 gift from Wells Fargo for CommUniverCity San Jose.

The funding will support programs providing student volunteers the opportunity to reach out to people of all ages who need a hand with banking basics, homeownership, and taxes.

CommUniverCity brings together the City of San Jose, San Jose State University and the communities of Five Wounds/Brookwood Terrace through service and learning.

The result is a successful collaboration built around the priorities and goals of the residents, which include improving quality of life, building community, and engaging all participants in civic life.

Professor of Urban and Regional Planning Dayana Salazar serves as CommUniverCity San Jose’s executive director.

Councilmember Sam Liccardo addresses meeting.

San Jose Mayor, City Council Commend CommUniverCity

CommUniverCity Executive Director Dayana Salazar addresses city council with volunteers standing behind her.

Flanked by volunteers, CommUniverCity San Jose Executive Director Dayana Salazar accepts the commendation in city council chambers (photo courtesy of Dayana Salazar).

By Pat Lopes Harris, Media Relations Director

In December, the San Jose mayor and city council commended CommUniverCity for having orchestrated more than 100,000 volunteer hours in the community.

CommUniverCity San Jose is a collaborative project of the Five Wounds/Brookwood Terrace communities, San Jose State University and the city of San Jose.

SJSU concentrates service-learning classes in these neighborhoods in cooperation with the Neighborhood Advisory Council and the city.

The Commendation

WHEREAS: CommUniverCity builds community by engaging residents and students in service-learning projects that accomplish neighborhood-driven goals; and,

WHEREAS: CommUniverCity creates and supports community action projects that provide rich educational opportunities for residents of all ages that promote a “college-going” culture and instill a desire for life-long learning; and,

WHEREAS: CommUniverCity works to strengthen the community’s capacity to bring about vibrant, healthy, and engaged neighborhoods; and,

WHEREAS: CommUniverCity has served the Five Wounds/Brookwood Terrace community for six years, and completed more than 100,000 hours of community development work, valued at over $2 million.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Chuck Reed, Mayor of San José, together with Councilmember Sam Liccardo, and our colleagues on the City Council, on this 13th of December, 2011, do hereby congratulate and commend COMMUNIVERCITY SAN JOSE for their dedication to improving the quality of life in our downtown neighborhoods.

Justice Studies Professor Explores Pathways Out of Crime

Record Clearance Project Prepares Student for Law School

Javier de la Torre assists a client at the McKinley Neighborhood Center Speed Screening

Javier de la Torre assists a client at the McKinley Neighborhood Center (Justice Studies photo).

By Javier de la Torre

(Editor’s Note: The following story is an except from the winter 2011 issue of “Advance: News from the San Jose State University Record Clearance Project (PDF).” The project engages undergraduates in assisting eligible people to clear their criminal records.)

I began working with the Record Clearance Project (RCP) almost a year ago, and through this work have developed a whole new view about law and justice. The RCP and my studies at SJSU have ignited in me the desire to go to law school to become an attorney for at-risk youth.

In 1987 I arrived in San José as a young child, coming with my family from Mexico in search of a better life. Growing up, I never thought about going to law school. In fact, I found it extremely difficult to assimilate during my first years in the US.

However, I graduated from Oak Grove High School here and attended West Valley Community College, receiving an AA degree before starting at SJSU in the fall of 2009.

While I had been thinking of working as a police officer, sheriff or CHP officer, once I came to SJSU, I became more interested in learning about why crimes are committed and how to help the individuals involved. I began to see myself working with people who needed help rather than enforcing the law.

There are no lawyers in my family, and the Record Clearance Project gave me valuable field experience in the law. I really enjoyed working with my ten clients, and have seen firsthand that not only is knowing the law required, but communication and interviewing skills are necessary as well. My goal is to communicate in a professional and gentle way so that each person feels comfortable; being courteous and professional has guided me through many interviews with clients from different backgrounds.

I have enjoyed being able to share this wonderful project with the public by doing presentations and interview sessions in the community. At a Speed Screening at the McKinley Neighborhood Center, my interview partner was unable to attend, so I interviewed clients by myself. The one-on-one consultation made the experience feel as if I was a real lawyer. I was glad to return to the McKinley Center where previously I had done a community presentation, this time to help interested clients individually.

Becoming an attorney is a new path for me. For the last eight years I have worked at a sheet metal company, being promoted from the production floor to supervisor to production control. I paid all my expenses to put myself through college, and have helped my mother with her expenses as well. I have worked full-time, sometimes 50 hours a week.

In Spring 2012 I will graduate from SJSU, the first in my family to graduate from an accredited college. Being in the top 15 percent of my class, I am a member of the campus chapter of the Golden Key International Honor Society.

At this point in my career, close to graduation, I understand that choosing to pursue a law degree will take a tremendous amount of work and exceeding dedication. Through the RCP, I’ve met law students, as well as lawyers and judges. If accepted in law school, I believe I can make the right choices needed in my life and do the work required to emerge as a successful law graduate. I look forward to practicing law and continuing to help others.

SJSU in the News: CommUniverCity Plants Willow Glen Native Garden

An unpleasant bike trail in San Jose is now cleaned up and planted

By Dale Bryant

Originally published by Silicon Valley Community Newspapers Nov. 23, 2011.

Until very recently, the bike path along Highway 87, at the point where it opens onto Willow Street was pretty much a bike trail in name only. Because broken glass and debris spread across the path, it was not suitable for bicycling.

Four years ago, Debbie Wade and Deb Hoag, both members of the Almaden Cycle Touring Club, decided it was time to do something about it, so they began organizing monthly cleanup rides in their club. Club members would volunteer to spend a couple of hours on a Sunday sweeping up glass, clearing debris and painting over graffiti.

Club member Marvin Laurence suggested planting a native garden at the end of the trail where it opens onto Willow Street. He contacted the California Native Garden Foundation, headquartered at Middlebrook Gardens, 76 Race Street, San Jose.

The native garden foundation agreed to take it on as a project, and the first step called for cleaning up the area, removing weeds and covering the area with mulch a foot deep. The city’s Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services Department helped, and with donated wood chips, the area was ready for planing.

Then, according to Debbie Wade, “It sat for two years.”

Wade learned about a nonprofit organization called CommUniverCity San Jose, a collaborative project of the Five Wounds/Brookwood Terrace communities, San Jose State University and the city of San Jose. She applied for 25 volunteers to help with planting. The Almaden Cycle Touring Club agreed to cover the costs, and the native garden foundation secured the plants.

On Nov. 4, the cleanup, the planting and community effort came together as the planting of the native garden was finally achieved.

SJSU in the News: MetLife Foundation Gives $20,000 to CommUniverCity and SJPD

CommUniverCity, SJPD Honored for Work as Day of Service Projects Aid Community

Originally published by NeighborWebSJ in November 2011.

CommUniverCity San Jose’s fifth annual Day of Service was launched with recognition that law enforcement, the university and the community can successfully fight crime, remove blight and renew economic vitality in neighborhoods near the campus.

The recognition came with a $20,000 MetLife Foundation award given by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation to CommUniverCity and the San Jose Police Department. LISC is a national organization that promotes community development and policing through creative partnerships. The San Jose award winners were among 10 selected from a pool of more than 700 applicants.

The announcement of the award came early on Friday, November 4, at San Jose State University as 800 students and faculty prepared for their Day of Service assignments to remove graffiti, plant trees, clean up trash and help resident with neighborhood projects.

Specifically, the award recognized work that included cleanup of an abandoned railroad site, a shopping center renovation and a new housing development that helped bridge a divide between the McKinley and Olinder neighborhoods. From 2008 to 2010, the target area experienced a 17 percent decrease in overall crime incidents, a 34 percent decline in gang-related incidents and $4.8 million in public investment.

But for Day of Service volunteer, the focus was on the changes they could make in a day.

At the future Five Wounds Trail that begins near Five Wounds Church on Alum Rock Avenue, residents, SJSU political science students and Santa Clara County Supervisor George Shirakawa removed 70 graffiti tags and filled 53 bags of trash in two hours. That sets a record, according to Political Science Professor Terry Christensen.

“I think the volume of trash is actually declining, thanks to our ongoing efforts,” Christensen wrote in an email.

In the Delmas Park neighborhood, 30 volunteers worked with Our City Forest to plant 18 trees at 11 sites on five streets between West San Carlos and the Guadalupe Expressway. For most of the students, tree planting was a new experience.

“It’s kind of hurting my arms,” admitted Stephanie Ramirez, an SJSU sophomore as she and Daniel Thorburn, a freshman, dug into the dirt to make a new home for a young tree on Josefa Street.

“We really have to go deeper than this,” she said, looking into the hole. “That’s all I know for a fact.”

On Auzerais Avenue, another group supervised by OCF AmeriCorps volunteer Colin Reitman were getting their hands dirty as they loosened roots from the base of a young Flowering Pear before it was placed into the two-foot deep hole in the park strip.

“It’s pretty rewarding, right?” Jack Harding, a network analyst for the university’s technology services, said to the students, who answered with a laugh.

“A neighborhood planting project is a great way to engage volunteers,” Reitman said, adding that residents have agreed to take care of the trees while they mature.

The planting was the start of a Delmas Park project that neighborhood leader Phil Hood hopes will bring 50 new trees to the area through a partnership with Our City Forest.

Across town, another 30 student volunteers were building a rustic wooden fence along Caminito, a short pathway near the I-680 McLaughlin Avenue off-ramp.

The shortcut emerged over the years as a natural way for residents walking to McKinley Elementary and Fair Middle schools, grocery shopping and the bust stop at the end of the pathway. But the overgrowth of plants and trees, muddy conditions and trash made it unsightly and unsafe.

With a $2,000 grant from the National Center for Safe Routes to Schools and a $1,000 from the McKinley/Bonita Neighborhood Association, the residents cleaned up the area, constructed a pathway covered with fine gravel and cutback the vegetation. Ramona Lerma, a neighborhood leader, estimates about 80 people a day use the pathway dubbed Caminito.

To make the path safer and keep people form taking another shortcut across the freeway off-ramp, residents needed a fence. It was a perfect project for Day of Service.

“Once we told them what we wanted, they came ready to work,” Ramona Lerma said.

She and her husband, Dario Lerma, worked in advance to prepare the area for a new fence. On Friday, dozens of students rolled up their sleeves to place posts in the holes, fit the pieces of wood together and cement the supports.

“I love it,” said student and team manager Shane Peters. “It’s really good to come out here and see the difference.”

Said Brad Cardier, who volunteered with his Kappa Sigma brothers, “I wish there were more projects, smaller magnitude and more often.”

Illustration by Suhita Shirodkar

CommUniverCity Receives National Award for Innovative Partnership That Reduced Crime

Illustration by Suhita Shirodkar

The community of Five Wounds/Brookwood Terrace, including the Olinder and Bonita/McKinley neighborhoods, envision replacing a rail line east of campus with a neighborhood pathway (illustration by Suhita Shirodkar).

MetLife Foundation honors CommUniverCity San José, City of San José Strong Neighborhoods Initiative and San José Police Department at November 4th service event

Contacts:
Dayana Salazar (CommUniverCity), (408) 924-5854
Julia Ryan (LISC), (212) 455-1618
Sgt. Jason Dwyer (SJPD), (408) 409-5339

SAN JOSÉ, Calif.  – An innovative partnership between CommUniverCity San José and the San José Police Department that has reduced crime, eliminated blight and renewed economic vitality in several neighborhoods is being recognized on Friday, November 4, 2011 with a national MetLife Foundation Community-Police Partnership Award.

A public award celebration will be held at 8 a.m. during Friday’s kickoff of San José State University’s 2011 Day of Service on the lawn in front of Tower Hall. An estimated 1,000 students, faculty and staff will remove graffiti, improve landscaping and otherwise beautify neighborhoods surrounding the campus later in the day. Councilmember Sam Liccardo (District 3) is scheduled to speak. Members of the media are invited to attend.

“I’d like to thank the MetLife Foundation for recognizing our unique and successful partnership,” said Mayor Chuck Reed. “This honor is a testament to the hard work of our dedicated police force, the commitment of our partners at San José State University and the numerous residents who volunteer their time to build a stronger and safer neighborhood.”

The San José award winners were selected from a pool of more than 700 applicants for one of 10 MetLife Foundation honors, which specifically recognizes their creative efforts to integrate policing with economic development. CommUniverCity will receive $20,000 to advance its public safety partnership with the San José Police Department.

The award is funded by MetLife Foundation – which has long supported neighborhood-based efforts to tackle crime and improve safety – and is administered by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), whose national Community Safety Initiative promotes strategic community development and policing through creative partnerships.

“Collaboration between community-based groups and police departments can reduce crime, stimulate housing and other development, and improve the quality of life in low-income neighborhoods,” said Dennis White, president and CEO of MetLife Foundation. “These partners in San José present an exemplary model for groups nationwide facing similar challenges and opportunities. We are pleased to join LISC in recognizing and sharing their impressive work.”

That work includes the transformation of an abandoned railroad site known for illegal dumping, drug dealing and other criminal activity into an attractive, safe community. Infrastructure improvements orchestrated by the City of San José Strong Neighborhoods Initiative were key to the change, including streetscape upgrades and a shopping center renovation. KB Homes built more than 100 new homes utilizing principles of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, an approach which honored the community’s desire to bridge a historical divide between the McKinley and Olinder neighborhoods. With contributions by many public and private partners, both old and new residents are now united behind a vision for a safe and integrated community.

“Congratulations to our dedicated police force and CommUniverCity for their innovation in community policing and their commitment to safe neighborhoods,” said Councilmember Sam Liccardo.

“Strong partnerships are at the heart of community policing,” noted Chief Moore. “The San José Police Department has a long tradition of working with our community members to solve crime and eliminate neighborhood conditions that lead to crime. We are proud to be recognized for our efforts in working with the community to make San José a safe place to live, work and learn.”

From 2008 to 2010, the partners’ target area experienced a 17% decrease in overall crime incidents, a 34% decline in gang-related incidents and $4.8 million in public investment.

“This recognition from MetLife Foundation and LISC is a powerful validation of the positive, long lasting impact the collaborative work of residents, university students, and City staff has had on our local communities,” said Dayana Salazar, executive director of CommUniverCity.

“The dramatic change in the McKinley and Olinder neighborhoods proves that community groups, the City, and police can turn neighborhood dreams into reality when they work together, integrate their strategies, and share resources. In this case, we can clearly see how strong partnerships really do help build strong neighborhoods,” said Stephanie Forbes, executive director of Bay Area LISC. “We are thrilled to join MetLife Foundation in recognizing the creative and successful work of all of the CommUniverCity partners in making our city a better place to live and work.”

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Event Information: San José State University Day of Service Kickoff with the MetLife Foundation Community-Police Partnership Award presentation
Location: San José State University Tower Lawn (in front of Tower Hall)
Date/Time: Friday, November 4, 8 a.m.

About CommUniverCity: CommUniverCity is a partnership between a local community in San José (community), San José State University (university), and the City of San José (city). CommUniverCity builds community by engaging residents and students in service learning projects that accomplish neighborhood-driven goals. Established in 2005, CommUniverCity San José has engaged 33,551 residents, over 7,754 students and 1,295 corporate volunteers have invested more than 105,543 hours in community service valued at over $2 million. More information.

About the City of San José: From its founding in 1777 as California’s first city, San José has been a leader, driven by its spirit of innovation. Today, San José stands as the largest city in Northern California and the Capital of Silicon Valley – the world’s leading center of innovation. The city, the 10th largest in the U.S., is committed to remaining a top-ranked place to do business, to work and to live. More information.

About LISC: Bay Area Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) works to make neighborhood dreams a reality by working with cities, residents, nonprofit organizations, and key public and private partners to build the capacity of community revitalization efforts. As part of LISC’s national operations, the Community Safety Initiative supports strategic alliances between police and community developers to reduce crime, disorder and fear in troubled neighborhoods; it has administered the MetLife Foundation Community-Police Partnership Awards since 2002. More information.

About MetLife Foundation: MetLife Foundation was established in 1976 to carry on MetLife’s longstanding tradition of corporate contributions and community involvement. The Foundation is committed to building a secure future for individuals and communities worldwide. Through programs focusing on empowering older adults, preparing young people and building livable communities, MetLife Foundation increases access and opportunities for people of all ages. Since it was established, MetLife Foundation has made more than $500 million in grants and $75 million in program related investments. More information.

Little boy dressed in a police officer costume holding a tiny pumpkin.

SJSU in the News: CommUniverCity San Jose Hosts Safe and Green Halloween

Little boy dressed in a police officer costume holding a tiny pumpkin.

CommUniverCity's Safe and Green Halloween offers neighborhood children a timely lesson in the benefits we receive when we reduce, recyle and reuse (photo courtesy of NeighborhoodWebSJ).

Safe and Green Event Provides Free Costumes, Environmental Lessons

Originally published by NeighborWebSJ in October 2011.

Shopping for a costume at the fifth annual Safe and Green Halloween event near McKinley Elementary School was limited to five minutes, but you couldn’t beat the price – free.

About 600 donated costumes were given away to children whose families can’t afford them as part of the October 21 event that sends two messages to participants: Stay safe on Halloween night and take care of the environment.

The annual event is organized by CommUniverCity San Jose and supported by the university, the Five Wounds/Brookwood Terrace Strong Neighborhoods area, the City of San Jose and Olinder and McKinley elementary schools.

From learning the consequences of dumping litter into creeks to making your own compost for a healthy garden, volunteers at 22 booths focused on ways to protect the environment and adopt a healthy lifestyle. Even costumes can be recycled.

Carla Angeles brought her 3 year-old daughter and her two nephews to the event to trade in last year’s costumes for new ones. Then her trade-ins could be adopted by other families.

“It’s excellent,” she said of the costume exchange. “It could be very hard if you have two kids. It costs more than $40 a costume (in a store).”

Even the Green Ninja who entertained the 1,000 participants with his swashbuckling moves represented a San Jose State University program aimed at “creating experiences that illustrate the connections between humans and our changing climate. “

Lina Prada was giving away samples of dark and fair trade chocolate.

“We don’t want any kids out in the fields harvesting cocoa,” she said.

Pumpkin decorating was a popular event.

Yahina Cardenas, 8, won first space with her costume made out of taco chip bags.

The event also featured a pumpkin decorating competition and competition for the best costume made from recycled materials. Scavenger hunts and other activates led by San Jose State University students kept children busy and environmentally focused.

“It’s fun,” said Daisy Juarez, 9, who had chosen a singing Minnie Mouse costume from the hundreds hanging up on a rack under a canvass canopy. Lessons learned?

“You always need to recycle,” she said, “And go out and play five minutes.”

For more information, contact Elizabeth Figueroa at Elizabeth@communivercitysanjose.org.

Illustration by Suhita Shirodkar

CommUniverCity Provides a Model for Healthy Cities of the Future

Illustration by Suhita Shirodkar

The community of Five Wounds/Brookwood Terrace envisions replacing a rail line east of campus with a neighborhood pathway (illustration by Suhita Shirodkar).

Mighty Union Pacific trains once pulsed through downtown San Jose, a land rich with agriculture. But now both the trains and orchards are gone — leaving behind a skeleton of derelict railroad track and city-dwellers with no easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

A broad coalition sees in these remains the seeds of a community renewal. This community-university-city partnership — called CommUniverCity — seeks to use the fallow land to restore health to the working-class neighborhood surrounding Five Wounds Church.

Read contributing writer Lisa Krieger’s full story about the community-university-city partnership that’s helping San Jose’s Five Wounds/Brookwood Terrace neighborhood become a model for safe, clean and healthy communities throughout the city.

Like this story? Read others in the Fall 2011 issue of the SJSU Washington Square.

jack-o-lantern

CommUniverCity Seeks 1,000 Gently Used Children’s Costumes

Custom-made cardboard box on a wagon in a school yard.

Volunteers created these collection boxes (CommUniverCity photo).

By Dayana Salazar,
CommUniverCity San Jose Executive Director
SJSU Professor of Urban and Regional Planning

On Oct. 21, CommUniverCity will hold it’s Fifth Annual Safe and Green Halloween at Martin Park near McKinley Elementary School. Safe and Green Halloween provides families with resources and information that help them become more aware of the importance of safety on Halloween night.

During the event, children from three elementary schools and their parents also learn that the 3 R’s (Reducing, Reusing, Recycling) are possible on any type of income via games like “Test Your Recycling Knowledge.” Many games will be led by SJSU students.

CommUniverCity tries to set a proper example of reusing by distributing all the gently used costumes that are collected during our costume drive. It would be a huge help if our community at large could help CommUniverCity in this endeavor whether it’s through donating costumes by Oct. 17 or through forwarding the message as widely as possible. Donation drop-off locations are listed below.

Help CommUniverCity reach its goal of collecting 1,000 gently used children’s costumes by cleaning out your attics, basements and storage spaces! Tell your parent­s, grandparents, godparents, aunts, uncles, in-laws, cousins, co-workers and colleagues about our efforts!

Every costume is distributed to families and every costume means a smile on a child’s face! For more information, please email CommUniverCity or call (408) 297-3301.

WHERE TO DONATE BEFORE OCT. 17
McKinley Elementary: 651 Macredes Ave.
Olinder Center: 848 E. William St.
Roosevelt Community Center: 901 E. Santa Clara St.
San Jose City Hall: 200 E. Santa Clara St, 18th Floor
King Library, Children’s Room: 150 E. San Fernando St.
KSQQ Radio Station: 1629 Alum Rock Ave, Suite 40
East San Jose Carnegie Library: 1102 E. Santa Clara St.
The Tech: 201 S. Market St.

SJSU in the News: Students and Staff Volunteer to Clean Up Neighborhood

San Jose program for blighted neighborhoods must reinvent itself

Originally posted in San Jose Mercury News April 30, 2011

By Tracy Seipel

Davide Vieira remembers when the abandoned railroad tracks around East Santa Clara and 28th streets were a dumping ground for stolen cars stripped of their parts, a haven for drug dealers and a rendezvous point for prostitutes.

These days, it’s a much different place, largely because of San Jose’s Strong Neighborhoods Initiative. Launched in 2000, the program — funded by the city’s once-robust redevelopment agency — has spent $104 million to enhance 19 blighted San Jose neighborhoods and teach their residents how to lobby for change.

Now, the program’s future looks grim, a victim of its ties to the bereft agency and bleeding budgets. And many wonder aloud if the neighborhoods will be able to make it on their own without city subsidies and leaders.

The initiative that boasted a budget of almost $18 million in 2004-05 and 55 employees has dropped to $3.2 million this year and 20 workers. Two were let go last month, and by Monday 12 others will be notified that they will be gone from the program by July 1. And it will only get worse after that.

“You could see how a lot of people will use this and throw up their hands and say, ‘Oh well, we’re doomed,'” said Vieira, whose family has lived and worked in the area for four decades. “Apathy is always possible, but I don’t think that’s the case in our area.”

The redevelopment agency may be best known for the $1.8 billion it spent to invigorate downtown and the North First Street tech corridor. But Vieira and others who live in the Five Wounds/Brookwood Terrace area care more about the dollars the agency has invested closer to home.

“It’s given people hope and confidence that they could make a difference, and the tools and courage to stand up to the elements that brought down their neighborhoods,” said Vieira, 51, a former software engineer who was among dozens of residents and college students picking up trash and painting over graffiti on a recent Saturday morning during a three-hour walk along the railroad tracks.

But the program is threatened by the imploding redevelopment agency, which is suffering from a huge drop in property assessments and massive debt. The agency could be eliminated under a proposal by Gov. Jerry Brown to kill the state’s 425 redevelopment agencies and divert all the property tax they collect to schools and local governments.

In the future, the initiative’s ambitious mission of improving some of the most blighted areas in the city will have to be shouldered mostly by residents. But can the targeted neighborhoods succeed independently, or will the progress they’ve made be all for naught?

City Councilman Sam Liccardo, whose downtown district is among the three that have benefited most from the program, offers a blunt assessment: “The communities that have created a critical mass of active neighborhood leaders will continue to build on that momentum. But I worry about those that have not.”

When the program began under Mayor Ron Gonzales, the agency was flush with cash to fund community centers and parks, new streets and sidewalks, tree planting, streetlights and new building facades.

The public dollars leveraged private investment, often by housing developers, which city officials say has bolstered property values in the targeted areas.

Of all the neighborhood groups, Vieira’s is one of the strongest. Neighbors there even produced a 200-page blueprint for retail shops and housing around a future BART station behind the Five Wounds Portuguese National Church. And Vieira’s group also benefits from a unique five-year collaboration among the neighborhood, the city and San Jose State called CommUniverCity, in which students receive credit for community work.

Yet even if the program becomes a shadow of its former self, city officials and neighborhood leaders say, it has trained many residents well enough to continue on their own.

“We have the structure in place that (program leaders) have left behind, and we’ve been taught how to speak for ourselves,” said Lorena Vidrio, co-owner of two Taqueria Lorena’s restaurants in two of the 19 neighborhoods.

The cash-strapped city still believes in the program and its benefits, even if it has to be starkly reduced or reinvented.

“We can’t have the same presence in those 19 neighborhoods that we used to have,” said Deputy City Manager Norberto Duenas. “We’re going to have to refocus our efforts into the neighborhoods that have the highest needs.”

Acknowledging that looming reality, program director Kip Harkness last year convened a group of 140 neighborhood leaders and program staff to discuss their future, with an eye toward targeting 13 “focus areas” most impacted by crime and poverty.

Where the objective was once creating clean, safe and attractive neighborhoods, the new emphasis will be keeping them clean, safe and “engaged.”

“The idea is that they look at their surroundings and ask, ‘Why do we have cars being dumped over here? Why are the streetlights out? Why are there kids hanging out here at night causing problems?'” said Paul Pereira, a program manager.

Some of the answers, he and Harkness said, lie in the surroundings: When people ignore trash, dumping or broken streetlights, it gives the appearance that residents don’t care, inviting more trouble.

So instead of waiting for the city’s understaffed code enforcement unit to take care of those issues, Harkness said, large groups of residents can organize neighbor walks to look for problems.

Still, funding will remain a substantial challenge for many of the neighborhoods. In the Five Wounds region, for example, agency funds helped to renovate a shopping center at William and 24ths streets, expand Olinder Selma park and contributed to building the Roosevelt Community Center and a skateboard park there. In years to come, Vieira’s group hopes to transform the railroad track area into a trail and park. But for that to happen, it will have to find grants or private investment.

While self-reliance is the program’s new mindset, Harkness said, residents shouldn’t be abandoned by the city. It will try to provide help with whatever funding is left, along with video “kits” to help residents organize walks, block parties and ways to encourage derelict landlords to repair their properties, among other projects. The information, he stressed, will be available to residents citywide.

On Friday, Harkness met with some of those who are being let go from the program, and he was saddened by the loss. He continues to believe in the importance of the work that’s being done, but acknowledged, “I’m unsure what the future is for Strong Neighborhoods.”

CommUniverCity students touring King Library.

CommUniverCity Event Motivates San Jose High School Students Toward College

CommUniverCity students touring King Library.

CommUniverCity students touring King Library.

SJSU will welcome 200 additional students to campus Feb. 10, when San Jose High School freshmen visit for a day of workshops, tours, and a panel discussion. This is the fourth year CommUniverCity San Jose will host such an event.

“CommUniverCity strives to foster a ‘college-going’ culture throughout the community,” said Dayana Salazar, CommUniverCity executive director and chair of the SJSU Department of Urban and Regional Planning. “Spending a day on the SJSU campus interacting with students and alumni inspires high school students to renew their college-going aspirations, as they realize how close our campus is to their own communities and how the life stories and personal background of our students reflect their own.”

Students will attend workshops focusing on the advantages of earning a college degree and tour the entire campus including King Library. The students will also hear from a panel that will include Gloria Chacón, member of the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury; David Salazar, a glass-blowing artist; Charlie Newman, a coroner and former advisor to the X-Files; and Donte Ellington, a semi-pro football player. All are graduates of both San Jose High and SJSU. Also on the panel will be Davide Vieira, long-term resident of the neighborhood surrounding San Jose High; Kristin Kelly, associate director of administrative services, SJSU Student Union; and San Jose councilmember Sam Liccardo.

CommUniverCity — a partnership of SJSU, a neighborhood east of the campus, and the city of San Jose — organizes service-learning projects that advance the neighborhood improvement priorities set by its residents.