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CommUniverCity San Jose: A Partnership for Service and Learning
Unformatted Document Text:  proposed mostly surface parking lots, but neighborhood kids came up with the idea of a “town square,” and residents are advocating for high density, mixed-use development. The transit agency has responded positively so far. As one participant said, “Most Government Partners Comments on Collaboration through CommUniverCity “CommUniverCity (CUC) has expanded the imagination of the Strong Neighborhoods program by aligning diverse academic disciplines and student enthusiasm with neighborhood priorities and City resources. In addition to implementing capital improvements and enhancing City service delivery in the Five Wounds Brookwood Terrace Strong Neighborhoods Area, CUC has broadened community improvements to include increasing civic engagement, creating a college going culture, exploring community partnerships around renewable energy, and beyond. Neighbors, students, professors, non-profit partners, and City staff contribute to the comprehensive effort of building community in Five Wounds Brookwood Terrace. By concentrating efforts in one neighborhood over a period of several years, CUC maximizes the potential for relationships to develop, blossom, and thrive. Collectively, CUC partners work to achieve sustainable change. In an effort to implement neighborhood priorities effectively, Strong Neighborhoods strives to leverage and align resources whenever possible. CUC has leveraged significant resources to enhance the quality of life within the Five Wounds area, ranging from volunteer labor to neighborhood surveying. Students contribute substantial time and energy through the various volunteer initiatives underway. In return, these students gain a keen appreciation of civic responsibility. Residents devote countless hours to planning and implementing their neighborhood priority projects alongside their CUC partners. The resulting community improvements, often inventive and pioneering in nature, are a testament to the creativity generated through CommUniverCity.” --City of San José Strong Neighborhoods Initiative Manager Laura Lam The CommUniverCity collaboration has helped us in lots of ways. Our contracts with the university have produced survey data and planning documents at a bargain price and the volunteer hours of SJSU service learning students strengthened our case when the city applied for a state grant for a planning project. CommUniverCity’s focus on social capital also helped inject that value into the work of our Strong Neighborhoods Initiative. CommUniverCity has also provided invaluable training for SJSU graduates and helped the city recruit over a dozen into city jobs—at a time when we’re doing succession planning for the huge number of retirements we expect in the near future. But CommUniverCity has also had direct policy impacts by offering fresh perspectives and proposing alternatives to current city policies as student service learners become acquainted with a neighborhood and gain an understanding of how and why current policies impact the neighborhood, becoming social advocates in the process. One example is the change in the city’s house painting program. Previously, house painting projects were targeted toward owner occupied households. Students in the College of Social Work who had been working in the vicinity of several FWBT mobile home parks and who had come to understand and build relationships with some of the fixed income and disabled population in these mobile home parks realized that the house painting program was not regularly extended to mobile park occupants because mobile homes are classified as just that: mobile. The State of California recognizes the mobile homes as vehicles and for that reason the house painting program did not apply to the inhabitants of these parks. Students pointed out that a large percentage of trailer park occupants are 22

Authors: Christensen, Terry., Jackson, Melinda. and Agredano, Ricardo.
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proposed mostly surface parking lots, but neighborhood kids came up with the idea of a
“town square,” and residents are advocating for high density, mixed-use development.
The transit agency has responded positively so far. As one participant said, “Most
Government Partners Comments on Collaboration through CommUniverCity
“CommUniverCity (CUC) has expanded the imagination of the Strong Neighborhoods program by
aligning diverse academic disciplines and student enthusiasm with neighborhood priorities and City
resources. In addition to implementing capital improvements and enhancing City service delivery in the
Five Wounds Brookwood Terrace Strong Neighborhoods Area, CUC has broadened community
improvements to include increasing civic engagement, creating a college going culture, exploring
community partnerships around renewable energy, and beyond.
Neighbors, students, professors, non-profit partners, and City staff contribute to the comprehensive effort
of building community in Five Wounds Brookwood Terrace. By concentrating efforts in one
neighborhood over a period of several years, CUC maximizes the potential for relationships to develop,
blossom, and thrive. Collectively, CUC partners work to achieve sustainable change.
In an effort to implement neighborhood priorities effectively, Strong Neighborhoods strives to leverage
and align resources whenever possible. CUC has leveraged significant resources to enhance the quality
of life within the Five Wounds area, ranging from volunteer labor to neighborhood surveying. Students
contribute substantial time and energy through the various volunteer initiatives underway. In return,
these students gain a keen appreciation of civic responsibility. Residents devote countless hours to
planning and implementing their neighborhood priority projects alongside their CUC partners. The
resulting community improvements, often inventive and pioneering in nature, are a testament to the
creativity generated through CommUniverCity.”
--City of San José Strong Neighborhoods Initiative Manager Laura Lam
The CommUniverCity collaboration has helped us in lots of ways. Our contracts with the university
have produced survey data and planning documents at a bargain price and the volunteer hours of SJSU
service learning students strengthened our case when the city applied for a state grant for a planning
project. CommUniverCity’s focus on social capital also helped inject that value into the work of our
Strong Neighborhoods Initiative. CommUniverCity has also provided invaluable training for SJSU
graduates and helped the city recruit over a dozen into city jobs—at a time when we’re doing succession
planning for the huge number of retirements we expect in the near future.
But CommUniverCity has also had direct policy impacts by offering fresh perspectives and proposing
alternatives to current city policies as student service learners become acquainted with a neighborhood
and gain an understanding of how and why current policies impact the neighborhood, becoming social
advocates in the process. One example is the change in the city’s house painting program. Previously,
house painting projects were targeted toward owner occupied households. Students in the College of
Social Work who had been working in the vicinity of several FWBT mobile home parks and who had
come to understand and build relationships with some of the fixed income and disabled population in
these mobile home parks realized that the house painting program was not regularly extended to mobile
park occupants because mobile homes are classified as just that: mobile. The State of California
recognizes the mobile homes as vehicles and for that reason the house painting program did not apply to
the inhabitants of these parks. Students pointed out that a large percentage of trailer park occupants are
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