The course introduces students to the social, political, economic and cultural forces shaping communities today. Emphasis is on the role of race, class and gender relations in urban social issues and the processes through which successful community intervention occurs at the local level: community organizing, participatory planning, advocacy planning, and community development. Students explore the dynamics of community building and social change by focusing on the interplay between communities, leaders, institutions, and change processes through team projects, individual assignments and community service activities in the surrounding community.
For the Fall of 2005, students particiapted in a variety of community development projects, with several different community organizations in the Illinois cities of East St. Louis and Urbana. The class is supported with a Community-Based Learning Grant from the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Public Engagement and Institutional Relations at the University of Illinois. As part of the course students are required to attend at least one ESLARP outreach weekend.
UP 260 students hard at work
Community Development Projects
Every student participated in a team project that involved working with an organization in East St. Louis or Urbana. The projects varied considerably—they included creating promotional materials for non-profits, T-shirt design, soliciting donations, creating a neighborhood shopping guide, organizing a career day for teens on the UIUC campus, etc. Each student applied for a community development project based on their interests and skills.
Below find brief descriptions of the projects and links to the final products.
Build East St. Louis Community Buying Guide - Students identified high quality independent small businesses in the East St. Louis area and collected information on them in order to create a one-stop guide to East St. Louis. Group members designed the brochure and it will be published and made available at visible locations in the area. Final presentation and student reflections – local shops and restaurants. Next year we hope to continue with this effort.
YouthBuild Career Day at UIUC - The Emerson Park Development Corporation (EPDC) operates a youth build and charter school program that works to help “at risk” youth obtain their high school diploma and train them in construction/carpentry skills. While some of the students are academically strong they have not, to any great extent, been exposed to the idea of pursuing a college degree or visited a college campus and experienced campus. EPDC asked us to plan a one-day event in late October or early November for approximately 25 students. The YouthBuild students will be accompanied by their EPDC staff as well. This group must plan and execute a full day of activities including visits to academic departments, tours through the dorms, learning about student organization and participating in campus activities/events. This group will spent a Friday in East St. Louis at the charter school to get to know the students and experience a typical day at the Youth Build program.
Opal's House: Donations to the Shelter - Opal's House, a woman's shelter in East St. Louis, needed donations of furniture and supplies to prepare the shelter. Students worked to compile a very detailed list of what is needed for the shelter to open, and developed a letter and phone script to attract possible donors. The students also contacted businesses in the Urbana-Champaign area in an effort to procure donations locally that could then be delivered to the shelter. See the wish list and suggestions for fundraising.
Eagle's Nest Promotional/Recruitment Materials - Eagle's Nest is a new non-profit transitional housing and support organization for homeless male veterans and non-veterans, including around-the-clock long term care and counseling, with funding support from the federal Departments of Veteran Affairs and Housing and Urban Development. Students worked with the organization to create a website and a pamphlet that can be used in publicizing the organization as well as recruiting volunteer members to serve on its Board of Directors. See the pictures from the outreach weekend, brochure, cover letter and webpage.
American Bottoms Conservancy (ABC) Summary Report - Wetlands and Pollution - Two groups of students worked with ABC to create a program of community education to the many environmental problems that currently plague the East St. Louis area. The students were taken on a tour of the environmentally hazardous sites, to collect photographs and histories, and compiled them into a PowerPoint presentation that can be shown to community groups and used to further ABC's efforts to clean up the East St. Louis area.
Marilyn Queller DayCare Center (MQDCC) Promotional Items - The MQDCC is a non-profit day care center in Urbana. The center relies on donations to operate. This student group designed and sold t-shirts in support of the center.
MQDCC Playground - This student group worked with the MQDCC to update their playground with new equipment and grading. This included designing the project with the help of the children as well as seeking donations of equipment, money, and labor to make the project happen. The students applied for and won a $1,500 grant from the Home Depot to help rebuild the playground.
Course SWOT Analysis
SWOT analysis is a technique to analyze the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats of a decision, problem, place, etc. In community development and urban planning, SWOT is often used at community meetings to structure conversations about quality of life in a neighborhood or a controversial project. Carrying out this analysis often illuminates what needs to be done and puts problems into perspective. Students in UP260 completed a SWOT on the experience of doing community based learning. Link to exercise handout. Click here to see the results of the SWOT analysis.