Santa Clara University


Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative (NPI)

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 J. Alex Pennington

Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013

This fall quarter 2013 has been undoubtedly shaped through the NPI 3.0 Cohorts and the time I have spent in the Washington neighborhood of San Jose. As a junior undergraduate finance major, this has been my first physical social justice initiative at the university. Just as other students have mentioned, this time has been some of the most self-rewarding of all the university classes I've taken.

Our class and program initiative has so far been modeled around two primary objectives: advancing our relationship/consulting with Yolanda's local market, as well as mapping the businesses of the Washington neighborhood in order to analyze trends and make possible inferences. Initially, these goals presented a great opportunity to both engage with the community on a social level and also gain some valuable business experience. So far, I have been able to interact with the great kids of Washington Elementary. In addition, Yolanda's has been a frequently visited spot on the neighborhood as we work to increase efficiency and prosperity for her and the local market. Furthermore, we have been working to construct a database of the local businesses based on basic attributes such as business type, target market, means of advertising, and number of employees. This week we have started more of the mapping initiative and have started physically mapping our information for the business school and all of the university to see.
Personal reflection has been a large part of the course, and there has been plenty of it through this week 6. When visiting the elementary school, the first thing that was apparent to me was the quality of the grounds/facilities and the emphasis on education despite hardships. This underlines the importance of education in any context, and the role that it plays in a child's, and thus a generation's, upbringing. The mothers are highly involved and the work they do to provide a better opportunity to the children is truly inspiring. This directly leads into the neighborhood and the problems that exist. These problems include, graffiti/defilement, drugs, gangs, prostitution, and more. Although education is not the sole solution, it is pivotal for keeping the younger generation off the streets and in a more opportunistic position. These issues compound by negatively influencing businesses and the welfare of the rest of the neighborhood. After talking to some of the local business owners,  it is apparent that they are affected by some or all of these activities. This, in combination with the recent economic recession has brought challenges. Though the recession has affected many, the local environment is very much in stark contrast to my upbringing in the suburbs of Sacramento. General physical and emotional safety is something nobody should have to worry about or fear on a regular basis. Moreover, it really hit home with me that all of this is happening no more than a few miles away from our seemingly ideal college campus. This has served as an essential reminder of how we all must remain constantly conscious human beings, specifically in regards to social justice and the community. The big picture of a great society is made up and brought to life by the mosaic of individual communities nationwide, thus they should never be neglected. I want for everyone to have equal opportunity just as it should be. However, as attempts of socialism have shown, total equality is not exactly feasible so it is intriguing the necessary gray area that will give optimal and ample opportunity to all. NPI has conveyed the need for work on a local and global level, and has all the more contributed to my affinity for social entrepreneurship. Over the next 5 weeks I look forward to the true meat of the course and making noticeable achievements for the greater Washington neighborhood. I have had no regrets thus far, and wish to contribute into the future and beyond this quarter as I continue on this selfless, rewarding path at Santa Clara University, ready for any opportunity.
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