Santa Clara University


Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative (NPI)

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 Tia Okemura

Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013

On October 15, our NPI had the chance to explore the Washington neighborhood of downtown San Jose. Our goal was to map the businesses along South First Street and ask them questions both about their business and what could improve business in the area in general. 

When we arrived at our designated meeting place, Jackie briefed us on where to go and what we would be doing. As she finished, she handed each pair clipboards containing a talk track, Wells Fargo Applications, and interview sheets. As soon as I grabbed the clipboard, I felt a wave of emotions hit me. Nervousness - how will the business owners respond to two kids from Santa Clara University walking into their store and asking questions? Will the want to help us? What if they yell at us? Excitement - It is the first time the members of our class are actually able to walk around and into businesses in the neighborhood we are working with. Finally we are able to really get started with the meat of our class. Curiosity - I wonder what kind of answers the business owners will have for us and what kind of people and personalities we will encounter. 

The first business my partner and I talked to affected me the most. We talked to Perry, a part time worker at a small convenience shop. He answered all the logistical questions for us, but when it came to our last question, "What do you think can be done to improve business in the area?" he got very emotional. 

"Education," he said, "is the most important thing." He went on to explain how education can shape a person and either make them turn towards a life of crime or towards something better than that. He was very emotional and even raised his voice, saying he experienced this first hand. The only thing that made him stop his story was when a customer stood at the cash register, ready to pay. He waved us goodbye as we turned to leave the store. 

Talking to Perry made me realize how lucky I am to attend Santa Clara University and have the chance to help this neighborhood that has so much personality and potential to be great. I feel lucky to be able to expand my knowledge so that I may one day give back to deserving people such as those we talked to that day.

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