ICJE Logo Small

Spring 2016 stories

Thriving Neighbors Initiative

2015-2016 University-Community Participatory Action Research Grant Reports

The SCU Thriving Neighbors Initiative actively promotes strategic ties between Santa Clara University and the Greater Washington community of San Jose, California, in order to advance prosperity and education within SCU and Greater Washington. The Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education invited faculty-student-community partner teams to submit grant proposals for projects that advance the aims of the Thriving Neighbors Initiative in its inaugural year. The following grants, awarded in 2015-16, supported education and health projects that were collaboratively designed, developed, and evaluated. Read more about the Thriving Neighbors Initiative and the 2015-2016 grant projects.

Madres Discussion Group

The Madres Discussion Group, led by Dr. Lucia Varona and Lecturer Maria Bauluz of the Spanish Department at Santa Clara University, SCU students, community leaders Liz Molina and Maria Claudio, and WES mothers has become a place of collaboration and support for groups of mothers in the Washington Elementary School (WES) area. Some discussion topics include Hispanic identity in America, family, religion and spirituality, traditions: old and new, education, and integration of cultures. In a recent conversation, parent leaders spoke passionately about the importance of these reflection groups and the collective ownership that they feel towards these groups as the organization and rules within the group continue to be implemented by the mothers. When asked about the future of this program, the mothers echoed these sentiments: “Take anything away from us, but never the Grupo de Reflexion, that is where we find relief to our burdens, we learn to be strong women.”

Mindfulness Project

The Mindfulness Project is a collaboration between Dr. Elizabeth Day of Santa Clara University, Liberal Studies and Child Studies students, Sacred Heart Community Service’s (SHCS) staff, and the Executive Director of an educational nonprofit called Restore: Carry the Vision. Lessons in this program focus on grades 2-8 and are administered during SHCS’ after-school academy program. Together, both SCU and SHCS students practice “cultivating the self” and developing the qualities inherent in mindful leadership. Since the inception of the project, Dr. Elizabeth Day and her 12 students have worked with 66 children within the Greater Washington Neighborhood. The team of students, faculty, and educational nonprofits look forward to continuing implementation of their co-created mindfulness curriculum for the 2016-17 academic year.


Community Training in Action Research

Dr. Laura Nichols, from the Department of Sociology, in conjunction with the Thriving Neighbors Initiative, is designing a pilot program to provide Community-based Training in Participatory Action Research. The purpose of the program is to expand the training and employment opportunities for Washington residents as well as SCU students interested in a possible career or temporary work in social science research. To date, a team of four community action researchers have helped recruit their own neighbors, implementing a 90-question Community Assessment Survey gathering data from 220 participants. We look forward to learning even more about the Greater Washington Community in order to better inform the multi-faceted efforts of the Thriving Neighbors Initiative.

Madres Walking to Health

Drs. Katherine Saxton and Laura Chyu of Santa Clara University’s Public Health Program joined forces with members of Washington Elementary School’s Madre a Madre parent committee to develop a sustainable, community-based health program for families. The program, called Camino a la Salud, focused on supporting and expanding an existing walking group with the goal of promoting physical, mental, and social well-being. Community leaders Yazmin Ballesteros, Juanita Escamilla, Jessica Lopez, Eva Marrón, and Arcelia Ramirez played an integral role in organizing walking group activities and strengthening community bonds. The program has since expanded to also include Zumba and yoga classes, under the leadership of Juanita Escamilla, Marlen Monroy, and SCU Neighborhood Prosperity Fellow Erika Francks. When asked how she felt about the impact of exercise classes, one of the community leaders proudly said, “even though each person needs to make their own decision to make a lifestyle change, our Zumba classes and walking classes create a feeling of a healthier community.”

iPad Tutoring Program

The iPad Tutoring Program, also known as Abriendo Caminos, is a collaborative effort of Dr. Marco Bravo and seven Pre-service Teachers (SCU graduate students) from the Department of Education at Santa Clara University, as well as Washington community parents and children. The project involves sessions over six months during which parents are introduced to new approaches in utilizing technology to build the numeracy and literacy of children between the ages of 3 and 5. Parents are familiarized with the use of Spanish apps on iPads to strengthen both language and math skills throughout joint sessions, alongside researchers and faculty. Ultimately, the goal is for parents to feel empowered to be co-educators of their children through the use of technology at home. Today, parents are collecting personal photos and videos on their iPads with the goal of creating their own e-books and collages.

Air Quality Initiative

The Air Quality Initiative builds on previous research assessing the cumulative environmental impacts in Santa Clara County and seeks to understand the distribution of exposure to high concentrations of hazardous pollutants at public elementary schools in Santa Clara County and to identify potentially useful and locally preferred mitigation strategies to enhance community health, access to environmental benefits, and environmental justice, especially in the Greater Washington Neighborhood. Dr. Chris Bacon from the Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences, student researchers, and key community leaders are researching collaboratively to measure concentrations of critical air pollutants along the edges of school properties, identify key environmental hazards that impact student health and learning, use geographic information system (GIS) software to analyze socioeconomic and racial enrollment data, and explore preferred mitigations measures.

Resilient Families Program

The Resilient Families Program (RFP) is a family education program in the Greater Washington Neighborhood developed by Dr. Barbara Burns of the Liberal Studies Department at Santa Clara University, and her students from the Public Health, Psychology, Liberal Studies, and Engineering departments. The RFP team also includes 30 promotoras (community leaders) and six staff members at Sacred Heart Community Service (led by education director Roberto Gil). In RFP, parent and preschool workshops are designed to support “habits of resilience” centered on three building blocks: parent-child attachment, self-regulation skills in preschoolers, and parent stress management. More than 35 families from the communities of Sacred Heart Community Service and Washington Elementary School have completed the RFP program this year.

Community Gardening Project

The Community Gardening Project, led by Dr. Leslie Gray, students, and two community harvest leaders, works closely with both Sacred Heart Community Service’s La Mesa Verde (LMV) program and a nonprofit called Garden2Table. As a component of this program, participants receive raised garden beds that include soil, seeds, and a drip irrigation system, then attend a yearlong course that includes monthly organic gardening classes and mentor visits in order to produce their first bountiful harvest over two growing seasons. Research is focused on the potential nutritional, health, economic, social, and environmental benefits of home gardens for low-income communities. The group advocates for policies to increase access to urban agriculture in low-income neighborhoods, and about the efficacy of fruit gleaning to enhance neighborhood food security.

Photo Credit:
Mindfulness Project - Elizabeth Day
Madres Walking to Health - Courtesy Thriving Neighbors Initiative
Ipad Tutoring Program - Liz Molina
Community Gardening Project - Courtesy Thriving Neighbors Initiative