The course introduces students to the social, political, economic and cultural forces shaping communities today. 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 2007, students participated in a variety of community development projects, with community organizations in East St. Louis. The class was supported by a grant from the Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
Community Development Projects
Every student participated in a team project that involved working with an organization in East St. Louis. The projects varied considerably—they included organizing a cleanup/beautification event, creating promotional materials for non-profits, T-shirt design, soliciting donations, exploring grant opportunities, organizing a career day for teens on the UIUC campus, developing a prototype for a city newsletter. 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.
1. Community Partner: City of East St Louis
Project: City News Letters – Teams 1&2, Team 3
The City of East St Louis has asked the University to help them develop a city newsletter. The purpose of the newsletter is to disseminate information about city hall activities as well as to highlight positive things going on in the city (neighborhood news, buying guide features, and latest happenings). This group will have three sub-teams: one to organize the format and editing of the newsletter and two teams for developing content for two issues of the newsletter. This project needs strong writers, people with a sense for layout, good with making conversation and/or photography.
2. Community Partner: Emerson Park Development Corporation, East St Louis / Regional Housing and Community Development Alliance, St Louis
Project: Physical Conditions Survey
The Regional Housing and Community Development Alliance is helping Emerson Park Development Corporation (EPDC) update their database about physical condition in the neighborhood. They have asked us to assist them with some data collection about infrastructure, vacant land/illegal dumping, green space and sidewalk/street conditions in the neighborhood. Assessing the conditions of the neighborhood will help EPDC document the change over time. The project will involve walking up and down every street in the neighborhood and noting particular features. Students will be accompanied by local neighborhood residents and/or EPDC’s YouthBuild students. This project will have several teams. Each team will be responsible for specific physical features in the neighborhood. This project needs people who are walkers, good with navigation, comfortable in unfamiliar places, and have an eye for detail. Knowledge of Excel and GIS programs is helpful as well.
3. Community Partner: Emerson Park Development Corporation and YouthBuild Charter School, East St Louis, East St Louis
Project: EPDC YouthBuild Career Day at UIUC
EPDC operates a YouthBuild 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 has asked us to plan a one-day event in late October or early November for approximately 15 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, meet with student organizations and participate 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 YouthBuild program. The project needs extroverted and energetic students who know how to organize events.
4. Community Partner: Opal’s House, East St Louis
Project: Wish list, fundraising and Donations for the shelter
Project: T-shirts and Hat design for fundraiser events
Opal House is a women’s shelter in East St Louis. Student working on this project will update the shelter’s wish list as well has help with fundraising (small grants, asking for donations, money or in-kind). Some donations might be new if we can find companies willing to donate others used but in good shape. In addition, a second project involves designing and ordering t-shirts and hats. The hats will be sold to volunteers at a basketball game where Opal’s house will receive 15% of the concession proceeds and the T-shirts will be sold at Opal’s grand opening. The first project needs people who are outgoing and willing to ask people for donations or in-kind contributions. The other project needs people with a sense of design and able to make deals (for the purchase of the shirts and hats).
5. Community Partner: Rush City Improvement Association
Project: Three Oral Histories with Community Activists in East St Louis: Reginald Petty, Donnell Lewis and Inez Gavin
Students involved in this project will discover what individual people are doing to create positive change in their neighborhood. The oral history component documents the lives of individuals who have dedicated many years to neighborhood improvement efforts. The oral history will be a valuable community resource for local residents and UIUC students who want to learn more about East St. Louis, activism and community change. Students will interview, record and transcribe at least one interview, as well as look for photo documentation of the neighborhood. Students interested in documenting neighborhood history will enjoy this project.
6. Community Partner: Dayton-Wedgwood Neighborhood Organization
Project: Pedestrian Pathway Beautification
Project: Safe Route to School & Lighting Project
Residents of the Dayton-Wedgwood have been working to clean-up empty lots and stop illegal dumping in the neighborhood. The neighborhood has a Metrolink stop at 53rd Street. The Metrolink stop has been the focus of residents because the pedestrian pathway often floods, lacks lighting and has been the site of several violent crimes, including a rape. Recently the residents were able get the pathway raised so that pedestrians did not have to walk through water to reach their homes or the nearby public library, high school and middle school. Presently they are asking us to help with a beautification project, including trimming overgrown trees, picking up trash, making signs (neighborhood name, etc), building a small park (picnic table for starters) and decorating the pathway (with stones, flowers, solar lights, painting the barrier). This group will have two teams. One will focus on the pathway beautification (designing the project and getting donated materials and money for the project). The other team will focus on documenting the site, both its present problems and the neighborhood’s efforts to improve it. This material will go into an application to make the pathway designated as a safe route to school and increase pressure on local government, Metrolink and the utility company to install lighting.
7. Community Partner: Ema Wilson King Foundation
Project: Fundraising and Grant Writing
This foundation formed in 2005 in memory of Emma Wilson King, an East St Louis activist and mother of twelve who passed away. Ms King enjoyed parks and open space. She also encouraged all of her children to finish high school and attend college. In her honor the Foundation is raising money to restore a sixty-five year old fountain in Jones Park. In addition, the foundation is dedicated to improving ESL parks, gardens and neighborhood organizations. The students working on this project will assist with fundraising for landscaping/flowers and benches that will go around the fountain. In addition, the Foundation is looking for ways to identify corporate sponsors to keep the fountain maintained once restored. This project needs people who are outgoing and willing to ask people for donations or in-kind contributions. Those with strong writing skills will help the foundation with grant writing.
8. Community Partner: Community Concepts (community theatre)
Project: Assist with golf tournament fundraiser: Team 1 and Team 2