Santa Clara University


Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative (NPI)

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 Hazel Cruz

Monday, Oct. 21, 2013

Uneven sidewalk pavement, graffiti lined walls, the eyes of school children filled with hope and determination, upbeat conversations in Spanish, the savory scent of fresh tamales - these are the sights, sounds, and smells I have experienced over my last 3 visits to San Jose's Washington neighborhood. I am very happy to say that all these things are familiar and bring back fond memories of the place I grew up.

My name is Hazel Cruz and I am currently a Finance major with an MIS minor, wrapping up my senior year here at SCU. Up until I was 7 years old, I lived in Richmond, CA before I moved to Hayward, CA where I was raised and lived until I moved to Santa Clara to attend SCU. I am excited to be a part of this quarter's NPI program and hope to learn a lot and make a positive impact on the Washington area, since Hayward, a medium sized city about 30 minutes away from campus, has many similarities with this San Jose neighborhood. 

On the first day of class, Jackie asked us about the place we grew and to share the most important asset that we believe that city has. I went onto explain that Hayward isn’t the greatest city when it comes to low crime rates or all neighborhoods having high income families. But, the strength of the city lies in its communities of people who believe in a brighter future for the city and who are actively working to turn this vision into a reality. Over the last couple of years, the city of Hayward has been raising money to slowly improve the city. Recently, the city repaved the main street that runs through the entire city, put up street lamps along this path, and re-designed the whole downtown area. The impact of these changes were monumental. There are now people walking the city streets at night, business has been booming downtown, there has been an increase in attendees of weekly city events (like Sunday Farmer’s markets). Overall, the city in general just feels more safe, united, and vibrant.

Every time I visit the Washington neighborhood, I draw so many similarities with Hayward. During our first visit to Washington Elementary School, I saw children’s dedication to continue their learning on a Saturday morning, and parents with the resolve to create opportunities for their children. During my second visit to the local catering and market business, Yolanda’s, I spoke with Yolanda herself and she spoke about her love of the area and her obligations to give back to the neighborhood that has been so great to her through creating lasting relationships with her customers. During our most recent walk along the streets to talk to local businesses, I noticed the cracked pavement, which was once plentiful throughout Hayward. All of these small instances made me realize that this neighborhood could be on the brink of something great. And then I had a powerful thought - I could be a part of the process that helps turn this city into a success story, like the city where I grew up. It won’t be easy and it will take time, but I can help to start making those changes.

Although there is much work still to be done, all of these similarities (good and bad) that I see with where I grew up make me optimistic for the future of this community. I am so excited to be a part of this group and we will do as much as we can as a class to help this neighborhood keep taking small steps forward to a brighter future.

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