Inaugural Economic and Social Impact Report Shows SJSU Contributes $4.1 Billion to California Economy

As the most transformative university in the nation, San José State’s impact on the lives of its students, faculty, staff and alumni is apparent in a multitude of ways. Thanks to a new economic and social impact report conducted by Beacon Economics using 2018-2019 fiscal year data, SJSU’s contribution to the state of California is quantifiable — generating more than $4.1 billion in total economic output for the Golden State. 

As the only public university in the Silicon Valley — a haven for investment in global innovation, entrepreneurship, and cutting-edge technology — SJSU’s return on investment is transformative for the city of San José, the region and the state. For every dollar in state funding, SJSU generates $24 in economic output in California. 

“This report highlights the tremendous value our campus brings to our communities and neighborhoods,” said President Mary A. Papazian. “Our local businesses thrive, our arts districts crackle and our civic pride swells, all due to the tens of thousands of students, staff, faculty members and other university supporters and stakeholders who populate and visit our campus.”

The report shows Spartan pride is present throughout the state, with SJSU supporting 25,462 jobs in California. A little more than 52 percent of those jobs are in the Bay Area — meaning SJSU generates employment opportunities that support the region while also maintaining and expanding existing jobs at other companies through SJSU-related spending. Overall, SJSU generates $2.4 billion in economic output for the Bay Area.

It’s not all about the money

SJSU’s impact is much more than just dollars and cents. SJSU’s true value, a direct reflection of the university’s mission to help students achieve their higher education goals in pursuit of a career, is showcased throughout the 84-page report. 

The university’s student population is 83 percent people of color and 42 percent first generation. As a top seven public school in the West, according to the U.S. News & World Report’s 2021 rankings, underrepresented students are gaining access to a world-class California State University (CSU) education at an affordable rate. This leads to upward social mobility, the foundation of the #1 Most Transformative University ranking by Money magazine.

“With a degree from a university located in the heart of innovation and creativity, students are laying the foundation for generations of their families and communities to not only have their voice be heard but also be the leading voice in important conversations in our world,” said Vincent Del Casino, Jr., provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.

Beacon’s report says, on average, SJSU undergraduates graduate with $15,720 in student debt, less than half the average debt of California college graduates ($34,861). In turn, SJSU graduates are recruited by the world’s most influential companies, some of which are in Silicon Valley.

“SJSU’s alumni demonstrate that spending tens of thousands of dollars more on education is not necessary to achieve success or to work for competitive companies,” writes Beacon in their report. 

“SJSU’s College of Engineering provides more entry-level engineers to Silicon Valley’s Cisco Systems and Apple than any other university, and SJSU’s Lucas College and Graduate School of Business is the largest provider of business graduates to Silicon Valley.”

Local impact is global impact

Undergraduates are also well equipped with research experience as early as their first year of college. SJSU is a top 200 research university in the nation in spending, second in the CSU system. Along with pioneering research collaborations, SJSU’s cutting-edge exploration in areas like wildfires and marine science — through the nation’s largest wildfire research center, the Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center, and Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, respectively — help students begin to transform the world during their time in downtown San Jose. 

“Given the far-reaching nature of Silicon Valley, research done at SJSU on a local level truly has a global impact,” said Mohamed Abousalem, vice president for research and innovation. “Our emphasis on having students participate in research early in their academic careers leads to experience with top-notch faculty that helps prepare them for success once they graduate.”

SJSU’s research, curriculum, and activities are community-centered. Spartans give back in a variety of ways, including:

  • CommUniverCity, which contributed $982,900 worth of community service in one year alone. Since its inception in 2005, CommUniverCity has contributed over $8.4 million in service to the local community, engaging over 115,000 residents directly.
  • Partnerships with the City of San Jose expand arts and cultural resources to city residents through the Hammer Theatre and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library.
  • The Center for Development of Recycling provides research and technical support to the Counties of Santa Clara and San Mateo on their recycling programs. Students contributed over $1.7 million in in-kind services to the counties.
  • Giving community members a second chance at building their lives. The Records Clearance Project (RCP) allows Justice Studies students to provide legal assistance to low-income community members. With a 99 percent success rate, RCP has helped residents remove over $120,000 worth of debt and helped dismiss over 1,600 convictions for more than 550 individuals.
  • The Beyond Sparta program. Beyond Sparta engages all student-athletes with the community to not only provide service, but also provide them opportunities to professionally develop their own skills.

Editor’s Note: Beacon Economics’ full report is available on the SJSU Economic and Social Impact Report website.

SJSU Launches Inaugural Sustainability Faculty Cohort

Sustainability Faculty Cohort.

Ten SJSU faculty have been selected for the Sustainability Faculty Cohort: top row, l-r: Lecturer Roni Abusaad; Lecturer Sung Jay Ou; Assistant Professor Tianqin Shi; Assistant Professor Faranak Memarzadeh; second row l-r: Associate Professor Edith Kinney; Associate Professor Minghui Diao; Lecturer A. William Musgrave; Lecturer Thomas Shirley; bottom row l-r: Lecturer Igor Tyukhov; and Associate Professor John Delacruz. Image courtesy of the Office of Sustainability.

San José State Justice Studies Lecturer Roni Abusaad is excited to incorporate a module on the environment and human rights law as part of his Human Rights and Justice course this fall.

“This is an evolving area of human rights law and a great opportunity for students to understand the interconnectivity of all rights and connect theory to current issues like climate change,” Abusaad said at a May 24 faculty presentation.

Abusaad is one of 10 SJSU faculty members who are prepared to lead the way in the university’s inaugural Sustainability Faculty Cohort, who will include sustainability modules into their curriculum this fall. The cohort complements existing extracurricular and co-curricular initiatives offered through the Office of Sustainability, the Campus Community Garden and the Environmental Resource Center and offers a chance for faculty to become campus leaders in sustainability education.

The Center for Faculty Development, the Office of Sustainability and CommUniverCity hosted an informational workshop for SJSU faculty this spring to offer information about sustainability and how they could apply for a stipend to develop a sustainability module for their courses.

“There are many different definitions of sustainability,” said SJSU Professor of Geology and Science Education Ellen Metzger, who helped organize the initiative. “In our workshop, we defined it in terms of the three ‘e’s: economy, equity and environment. We used those three pillars to invite faculty to envision where their discipline might connect to one of the themes of sustainability.”

The workshop also highlighted the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which were adopted by all UN Member States in 2015 as part of The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The SDGs provide a “global blueprint for dignity, peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and in the future” and supply a framework for interdisciplinary teaching and learning about sustainability. Earlier this year, the Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings, which measure worldwide progress around SDGS, ranked SJSU in the top 30 universities among U.S. universities and in the top 500 internationally.

While students have many opportunities to learn about sustainability on and off campus, the faculty cohort ensures that Spartans can learn discipline-specific applications in areas such as hospitality and tourism management, business development, mechanical engineering and more.

“Higher education has a transformative influence on society, and if we want to empower students to become agents of change, it’s going to require us rethinking how we do things,” said Metzger.

“Universities, both in terms of teaching and research, are really well-poised to lead this reframing. What do we want the future to look like? If we want to contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, we must accept that nothing will change unless education changes.”

The desire to become campus sustainability leaders is evident at SJSU. More faculty applied to participate in the inaugural cohort than could be accommodated this fall. Metzger said that the applications demonstrated a hunger to emphasize sustainability in all disciplines — great news, considering that the Office of Sustainability hopes to continue the cohort program indefinitely.

The Campus Community Garden is just one of the many sustainability initiatives at SJSU. Photo by David Schmitz.

“Our campus has made amazing progress to make our facilities sustainable, from incorporating recycled water in all of our non-potable uses to installing solar panels on every suitable surface. I think this initiative builds on that foundation,” said Senior Utility and Sustainability Analyst Debbie Andres, ’07 Chemical Engineering.

Participating faculty will receive a $500 professional development grant courtesy of PepsiCo and are encouraged to share their experiences with other faculty at future Center for Faculty Development workshops.

“We have always offered amazing courses in every college that focus on sustainability, showing that it can and should be incorporated into every department,” continued Andres. “But we have never had a formal cohort dedicated to curriculum development. We saw how successful and well-attended our workshop was and we plan on this being the start of annual workshops.”

“Together faculty can help students develop the skills, knowledge and outlooks that will help them see themselves as change agents and offer opportunities to make a difference,” added Metzger.

Learn more about SJSU’s sustainability initiatives.

CommUniverCity Receives 2020 SPUR Impact Award

CommUniverCity Executive Director Katherine Cushing (center, holding plaque) stands with members of the CommUniverCity team.

CommUniverCity Executive Director Katherine Cushing (center, holding plaque) stands with members of the CommUniverCity team at their 15th anniversary reception, Celebrating Partnerships: A Quinceañera on November 13, 2019. Photo: Brandon Chew, ’18 Photojournalism.

On Friday, March 20, 2020, the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association will honor CommUniverCity, a three-sector partnership with San Jose State, the City of San Jose and the community, at the 2020 SPUR Impact Awards, a free online event that will start at 11:30 a.m.

Graphic of illustrations that says SPUR impact awards.

The SPUR Impact Awards will take place online on Friday, March 20.

A civic planning organization with offices in San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland, SPUR is known for its independent and holistic approach to urban issues. The SPUR Impact Awards acknowledge outstanding impact by public sector employees in city and county government in Santa Clara County who are making a difference in government and the community at large in the areas of housing, transportation, placemaking and urban design, and sustainability and resilience.

Four members of CommUniverCity’s Community Planning Team will be recognized with a 2020 Impact Award: SJSU Urban and Regional Planning lecturers Richard Kos and Jason Su, ’13 MUP, Community Director Imelda Rodriguez and Project Coordinator Ralph Robinson, ’21 MUP. The Community Planning team organizes and implements a year-long engagement project with underserved neighborhoods in San Jose. Using community planning principles, the team works with local residents, key stakeholder groups and other partners to identify neighborhood assets, challenges and opportunities. This information leads to creation of a professional quality planning report at the end of every academic year that the community can use to advocate for its top priorities.

“Receiving this honor demonstrates CommUniverCity’s and SJSU’s value as advocates for amplifying the voice of underserved communities,” says CommUniverCity Executive Director Katherine Cushing, who is also an environmental studies professor and director of SJSU’s Global Studies program. “Too often urban planning processes involving public input can be pro forma. They are seen as a required part of procedural compliance for moving a development project forward. CommUniverCity’s community assessment processes are the antithesis of that. Using the power of SJSU faculty and students, who work in partnership with neighborhood leaders, businesses, and other partner organizations, we focus on listening to residents and communicating their priorities to relevant city departments in San Jose. Through collaboration, we are able to capture resident perceptions of opportunities and obstacles for their neighborhoods and translate them into actionable items that city departments can work on.”

“This award recognizes our long-standing collaboration with the community in developing urban village plans that reflect the community’s vision, our commitment to work along with neighbors to revitalize our neighborhoods, and the value of the work our faculty and students perform to capture the community’s vision,” says Rodriguez, who has worked with CommUniverCity since 2009.

“We strengthen San Jose communities by linking them with San Jose State faculty and students, and with City of San Jose staff and elected officials,” says Kos. “It’s a powerful model of collaboration and coalition-building focused on three things: community health, education and neighborhood revitalization. But do you know where the real power lies, in my experience? The students of San Jose State University. You’d be amazed at how warmly they are welcomed by underserved communities in central San Jose. They give community residents a voice in advocating for their own interests.”

Since 2004, CommUniverCity’s Community Planning projects have worked with 15 neighborhoods on important urban planning issues to help community members understand smart growth principles. Reports have resulted in direct infrastructure improvements such as Safe Routes to School projects for two area schools, which included the installation of flashing beacons and median islands. Other infrastructure improvements included the design and construction of an outdoor living room and mural in Northside Neighborhood supported by a $45,000 grant from Knight Foundation. CommUniverCity attends neighborhood association meetings and maintains a running Community Wish List used to recruit SJSU faculty members to participate in community-identified neighborhood improvement projects.

“The award honors what CommUniverCity has always believed in—that the community are experts in guiding the future prosperity of their neighborhood, that robust engagement starts from a place of trust, and that our voices are stronger when together,” says Su, who also serves as the executive director of the Guadalupe River Park Conservancy. “I’m honored to be part of a long-standing tradition of learning from the community and leveraging the energy and expertise of San Jose State students to further their goals.”

SPUR is arranging to share physical awards with recipients at a later date.

San Jose State Celebrates CommUniverCity’s 15th Anniversary

CommUniverCity partners and participants gather for the 15th anniversary celebration. Photo by Brandon Chew.

SJSU’s student mariachi group. Photo by Brandon Chew.

San Jose, Calif. — San Jose State University’s student mariachi group opened CommUniverCity’s Celebrating Partnerships: A Quinceañera on Wednesday, November 13 in the Diaz Compean Student Union Ballroom. The event highlighted CommUniverCity’s 15 years of work to create healthy and vibrant neighborhoods through a unique partnership between underserved communities in central San Jose, San Jose State and the city of San Jose.

“CommUniverCity has come a long way over the past 15 years. We are fortunate to have trusted neighborhood leaders, collaborative city of San Jose staff, and engaged SJSU faculty members and students,” said CommUniverCity SJSU Executive Director Katherine Kao Cushing. “Our collaboration is the strongest it’s ever been and we can’t wait to see what the next 15 years have in store for us.”

More than 115,000 community members have engaged with more than 21,000 SJSU students in community-based projects. SJSU students alone have invested more than 394,000 hours in community service, valued at $8.4 million.

“Community engagement is a centerpiece of SJSU’s strategic plan, Transformation 2030,” said SJSU President Mary Papazian. “CommUniverCity’s work brings together dozens of SJSU faculty in departments ranging from materials engineering to urban planning, and this kind of interdisciplinary collaboration is critical to achieving our future goals.”

CommUniverCity received commendations from the city of San Jose, CA State Senator’s Jim Beall and U.S. House of Representative Zoe Lofgren’s Office. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo learned of CommUniverCity as a city council member. He said it is a model for bringing the classroom out into the community.

“I’m honored to be here to celebrate 15 years of partnership,” said Liccardo. “As long as I’m around, I want to do all we can to cultivate this incredible partnership.”

SJSU Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education Thalia Anagnos presented CommUniverCity’s awards to partners and community members. The Golden Brick award was presented to Paul Pereira, senior policy advisor for the San Jose Mayor’s Office. The Community Partner Award was presented to Jaime Torres, CORAL site manager at Olinder Elementary School. And the Government Partner Award was given to the city of San Jose’s Housing Department.

“The event was a powerful evidence that town-gown collaboration can be transformative for cities and college students,” said Cushing. “Seeing elected officials at the municipal, regional, state and national levels all voice their support for the collaboration is a wonderful affirmation of the partnership’s positive impact in San Jose.”

CommUniverCity SJSU Selected as a 2019 Outstanding Leader in Experiential Education

SJSU students and faculty surveyed residents about mobility in the city at Viva CalleSJ.

SJSU students and faculty surveyed residents about mobility in the city at Viva CalleSJ.

CommUniverCity SJSU has been selected by the National Society for Experiential Education (NSEE) to receive the 2019 Outstanding Leader in Experiential Education: Community-Based Organization award. The program will be recognized at NSEE’s annual conference Sept. 24th in St. Pete Beach, Florida.

“It’s so gratifying for CommUniverCity SJSU to be recognized at the national level for the rich hands-on learning opportunities we provide more than 1,600 undergraduate and graduate students every year,” said Katherine Cushing, executive director of CommUniverCity SJSU and professor of Environmental Studies. “Every day, we strive to show our students how they can apply what they are learning in class to ‘move the needle’ on important social issues that matter to our neighbors.”

Cushing traveled to Florida to receive the award at the conference.

The program brings together city representatives, community partners and residents as well as SJSU faculty, students and staff to provide engaging service-learning opportunities for students to connect and contribute to the local community surrounding SJSU. Last year the program oversaw 42 experiential learning projects and is celebrating its 15th anniversary this fall. CommUniverCity SJSU focuses its work in three main areas: Engage, which focuses on improving community health, Learn, which promotes a college-going culture and Build, which enhances neighborhood infrastructure.

One such “learn” project is Engineering in Action, led by Michael Oye, a project supervisor and associate director of CommUniverCity SJSU.

SJSU students work on lesson plans for the Engineering in Action project.

SJSU students work on lesson plans for the Engineering in Action project.

“The Engineering in Action project allows our SJSU students to gain a valuable experiential education opportunity by explaining technical subject matter to non-technical people, a practice that many of our students will have to master in their careers wherever they work,” said Oye, who is also a lecturer in the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering in the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering. “At the same time, students gain a broader perspective of the engineering profession in society, and children from the community have a chance to interact with role models.”

An example of an ongoing “engage” project is Growing Sustainability, where SJSU students focus on engaging school-aged children with hands-on activities designed to teach the importance of healthy living and environmental stewardship. The program includes garden education during school hours, an after school garden club and gardening workshops.

“I have always been passionate about environmental education and outdoor opportunities for underserved populations, but managing the Growing Sustainably program has opened my eyes to the impacts of hands-on experiential education on attitude and behavior change among participants, as well as the importance of place-based education,” said Alexandra Dahl, a graduate student in environmental studies and project coordinator of Growing Sustainability. “SJSU undergraduate student interns teaching the garden and cooking workshops are able to take what they learn in their college courses and apply them in real-world settings.”

One of the key tenets of the CommUniverCity SJSU is that projects are based on community-identified needs in the city. This is especially true for “build” projects. This year, SJSU students in sociology, political science and urban planning administered more than 1,500 mobility surveys to participants at Viva CalleSJ, an open streets event attracting more than 100,000 residents. The students analyzed the data and presented findings to City of San Jose staff members.

NSEE recognized CommUniverCity SJSU for its leadership in implementing education projects designed to meet community needs, engagement with the City of San Jose and local civic organizations to develop economic opportunities in underserved communities, as well as its advocacy for experiential education projects for students from diverse backgrounds.

By the Numbers (2004-2019):

115,556 residents engaged

21,130 SJSU students participated in projects

394,382 volunteer hours

$8.38 million (estimated value to the community)


Kellogg Foundation Award


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


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

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.”


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