Bridging the Opportunity Divide

These Schools Are Opening Their Doors to Struggling Communities

November 26, 2014
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These Schools Are Opening Their Doors to Struggling Communities
Students participate in a teen digital storymapping workshop at Camfield Estates in Roxbury, Mass. Danielle Martin/Flikr
Neighborhood engagement is a focus of these universities.

College campuses are expanding, and it’s not due to higher acceptance rates. Rather, it’s because, more and more universities are emphasizing service as a core mission and integrating with the communities around them through service.

Here are a few leading the way in neighborhood engagement.

Penn Alexander School, Philadelphia
In the early 2000s, the University of Pennsylvania started a series of programs targeting the rejuvenation of the nearby Spruce Hill neighborhood. Many of UPenn’s faculty and students live in the area, so the school decided to invest in its stabilization through lighting programs, safety patrols and homebuyer incentives.

Their biggest initiative, however, was the formation of the Penn Alexander elementary school, (previously called the Sadie Tanner Mosell Alexander University Penn Partnership School). What started as a simple public school in a struggling neighborhood is now so vibrant with families that school acceptance is determined by lottery.

Creating Community Connections, Boston
Sponsored by MIT, this program started back in 2000 and benefits the residents of Camfield Estates. MIT connects the area with technology through computer training, free laptops and high speed internet connection. Three-quarters of the residents chose to participate in the program when it was first announced. Called “C3,” it has recently been expanded to provide training and equipment to businesses and institutions in the area, as well as a new computer lab available for residents of the Estates and the neighborhood.

Center for Civic Leadership, Rice University, Houston
At Rice University, the administration has created a curriculum dedicated to service through the Center for Civic Leadership. Students and faculty alike participate in community service projects, research and programs benefiting Houston’s Fifth Ward. For students, service isn’t a one- time deal, but a four-year-long commitment. Freshmen start college with a first-year orientation to the surrounding community, and, if passionate, students can even earn an undergrad certificate in civic leadership. Recently, the Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars granted up to four $5,000 scholarships to Rice University to participate in the Center’s activities.

To learn more about universities participating in neighborhood engagement, click here.

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