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Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative (NPI)

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 Jackie Schmidt-Posner

Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013

 

Hi.  I’m Jackie Schmidt-Posner, Professor of Practice at the Leavey School of Business, and the faculty member working with students and community members to create the Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative.  We started a little more than a year ago—building relationships in the Washington neighborhood in San Jose and learning about where there is a match between what organizations and businesses in this neighborhood are trying to do, and what LSB students can offer in terms of time, energy, creativity and knowledge.  We are all learning from each other!  And we care getting closer to finding that “sweet spot” where students can apply business skills in a way that is helpful in the community.

Since the middle of fall quarter we have been working with Yolanda Arteaga, the owner of a small corner market and catering business located on S. Vine in San Jose.  Yolanda’s business career started as a vendor of fruits and vegetables at the San Jose Flea Market, and she later opened a market on King and Story Rd. When the property was redeveloped to make room for a large shopping center, Yolanda had to find another location.  Because the location on S. Vine is less busy, the market and catering business don’t get as much visibility.  Our class of 14 students (ELSJ 197) this quarter is now working with her (and with partners from San Jose City Councilman Sam Liccardo’s office and from the county Public Health Department) to develop ways to promote her business, as well as to help her reorganize her merchandise and rethink her product mix.  Marketing and retail management skills are definitely being called upon, along with accounting and finance. 

This project allows business students to really put their knowledge and skills to work in a very hands-on, direct way.  More importantly, however, this partnership with Yolanda is giving me and the students a chance to get to know a small business owner as a human being who is working hard to provide for her family, including a disabled husband and son, and who lives her life with a sense of gratitude for what she has, not what she is lacking.  She is a picture of elegance in her pearls and apron emblazoned with “Yolanda” as she cooks up authentic and very delicious Mexican food.  What a gift we have been given that she has allowed us to come into her business and offer our assistance!

Last week one of the students in my class wondered aloud about how people like Yolanda might feel about being the recipient of the service of others.  An insightful and important question.  It brought to my mind a poem by Julia Dinsmore—welfare mother activist, songwriter, poet from Minneapolis—called “My Name is Not Those People.”  I recently discovered that the poem is now a YouTube video, read by Danny Glover.  I offer it to you as a way to appreciate the assets and positive energy that are embodied in people we might be tempted to feel sorry for.  Certainly we all need to work together for social justice, but in a spirit of true partnership.  How fortunate the NPI students are to be reminded of this in every interaction with Yolanda!  Check out this video: My Name Is Not "Those People"

 

 

 
 
 
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