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CommUniverCity: An Effective Community Partnership

Updated on May 14, 2014
McKinley Neighborhood Center:
651 Macredes Ave, San Jose, CA 95116, USA

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CommUniverCity operates in several neighborhoods in the downtown San Jose area, and its main office is at the McKinley Neighborhood Center.

CommUniverCity is an outstanding and effective collaboration between three partners in San Jose, California: neighborhood residents near the downtown area, San Jose State University (SJSU), and the City of San Jose organization (CSJ). Through this partnership, CommUniverCity San José works to empower SJSU students and residents and to build community by organizing service-learning projects around civic engagement, education, community health, and neighborhood improvements.

CommUniverCity was organized in 2005 by Terry Christensen of SJSU and has since completed more than 100,000 hours of community development work, valued at over $2 million. Today, Dayana Salazar of SJSU is the Executive Director. The organization receives funding through grants and contributions from government agencies, foundations, and other groups.

The organization focuses on four main types of projects:

  • Civic Engagement - CommUniverCity helps students and residents get involved in their community and empowers them to improve their communities. Members attend conferences and public meetings to become more engaged.
  • Education - Many of these projects include engage residents and SJSU students to tutor others, encourage youth to attend college, teach financial literacy and other topics, and more. The Record Clearance Project helps people who have committed nonviolent crimes to expunge their records so they can get jobs and further themselves.
  • Health - CommUniverCity encourages good health through nutrition, hearing tests, and other projects. Garden to Table helps residents grow their own vegetables so they can eat healthy and have pride in their food.
  • Neighborhood Environment - These projects include neighborhood stabilization, service days, and more. Safe and Green Halloween promotes safety and fun for Halloween, and children can make their own sustainable costumes.

SJSU students and faculty also perform surveys and create reports on the neighborhood to help understand the dynamics of the area and to provide direction for future goals.

One of the things that sets CommUniverCity apart from other organizations is that the residents themselves set the goals and priorities for the neighborhoods, rather than the agencies. It gives confidence that these projects should be more successful because they are what the people want and they will work to achieve their goals. All sides are motivated to accomplishing these ends because they benefit all sides by empowering the residents, providing practical experience to SJSU students, and making the City's work in the neighborhoods easier.

I've participated in CommUniverCity service projects, usually the Neighborhood Environment projects that improve the physical look of the neighborhood. I have been impressed with how engaged the residents are with help from SJSU and CSJ. The range of projects CommUniverCity oversees is astounding. I think this would be a great thing for communities around the nation to attempt.


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