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Thriving Neighbors

Thriving Neighbors is a community-engaged learning program that links Santa Clara University with the five, predominantly Latino neighborhoods that make up the Greater Washington community in San Jose.
We promote collaboration between SCU (students and faculty), local agencies, and Latino communities in San Jose to create a more equitable and inclusive society:

- Foster education for K-12 Latino students, with a focus on STEM and leadership
- Co-create, execute, and evaluate programs to increase capacity development
- Offer SCU students the opportunity to put their expertise and knowledge into practice

Program History

Thriving Neighbors has grown from a long history of community engagement at Santa Clara University that spans back at least to the 1980s and continues ever stronger today. Its foundational roots are in the Eastside Project, which later became the Pedro Arrupe Center for Community Based Learning and then became incorporated under the Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education.

In 2011, as the Ignatian Center’s community Based learning celebrated more than 25 years of engagement with the nearby communities, members of the Ignatian Center and the Advisory Board began to consider how the center may deepen its impact. Through a series of conversations with community members, grounded in research of best practices for community engagement both in the public sector and in higher education, the Ignatian Center staff determined that a place-based approach was the most strategic next step for University engagement with the local community.

The Greater Washington Neighborhood of San Jose surfaced as the ideal neighborhood to engage in a deep, meaningful, long-term, and mutually beneficial relationship for a variety of reasons. The existence of a critical mass of established community partners, proximity to the SCU campus, significant challenges impacting community members, and extraordinary assets in community leadership all created an environment rich for this partnership.

Our Foundation

Our Jesuit Tradition

The Jesuit tradition of service for and with others is about educating the whole person—mind, body, and soul—and preparing students to create a more just, humane, and sustainable world. Our partnership with the Greater Washington community works in solidarity with community members to promote respect for human dignity, and create sustainable program models that improve community and university outcomes while making the community a more just and sustainable place.

Our Purpose

Our vision has two focuses: SCU students will become responsible global citizens and inspirational leaders; and all students in the Greater Washington neighborhood will graduate from high school and prepared to enter post-secondary education.

The mission of this program is to advance the community by providing skill-based training, and community-engaged learning opportunities. Thriving Neighbors leverages the collective efforts of community members, faculty, staff, and students to develop initiatives that benefit the community at large. We mainly focus on education, capacity building at grassroots level, and advocating for principles of social justice.

The goal of Thriving Neighbors is to maximize the impact of community engaged learning grounded in Ignatian tradition.

  • Foster SCU student development through community engaged, transformative, experiential learning for social justice
  • Cultivate student development programs that foster and depend upon university-community partnerships at the local level

Aligns with AJCU Characteristics of Jesuit Higher Education:

  1. Commitment to Mission
  2. Academic Life and Excellence
  3. Pursuit of Justice and Reconciliation
  4. Ignatian Campus Culture
  5. Service to the Church

Our approach is based on capacity development, mutual respect and collective action.

  • We value the participation of each one of the participants as active agents and advocates of their communities
  • We partner with local actors who share our values and vision to amplify the positive impact of our actions
  • We are committed to building relationships in which we can all learn, grow, and foster a sense of community

Our approach prioritizes the voices and needs of the community, and we will continue to seek out opportunities for collaboration to achieve our shared vision.

Our Stakeholders

With support from our donors and under the guidance of our advisory board, Thriving Neighbors engages SCU students and faculty in partnerships with Greater Washington community members, leaders, and organizations, to promote mutual learning, critical dialogue, and sustainable program development innovation.


Santa Clara University
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Navigate here to SCU Students
  • Community-engaged Learning
  • Tutoring & Mentorship Training
  • Ignatian-centered Social Justice Engagement
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Navigate here to SCU Faculty
  • Research-driven Approaches to Community Support
  • Train & Support Next Generation of practitioners & Community-engaged Research
  • Provide Curriculum Development
Community Members
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Navigate here to Community Children (K-12)
  • Educational Support
  • Academic Trajectory Guidance
  • Mentorship Navigated Growth
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Navigate here to Community Leaders
  • CommunityLeadership Development Training
  • Family & Education Coaching
  • Operational Facilitation of Programming
Local Partners
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Navigate here to Community Partners
  • Shared Strategic Vision & Goal Outcomes
  • Expertise in Education & Community Engagement
  • Program Implementation & Evaluation Support
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Navigate here to Local Authorities
  • Promotion of Social Development
  • Community Advocacy
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Navigate here to Advisory Board
  • Facilitate Supplemental Networking
  • Assist in Raising Funds
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Navigate here to Donors
  • Provide Financial Support to Develop & Expand Programs

Our Programs

Since its formal launch in 2013, Thriving Neighbors has undergone significant growth and adaptation to align with the needs and expectations of our stakeholders, particularly our students and community members. Our commitment to strategic partnerships, effective operation, and capacity development has been instrumental in realizing our vision. As we embark on our second decade, we remain more dedicated than ever to providing sustainable and high-quality community engagement programming. We are thrilled to embrace a new model that values growth, collaboration, and innovation, and we eagerly anticipate continuing to make a positive impact on our community.

Our strategy centers on forging strategic partnerships with local agencies that have a solid reputation and value within the community. This approach enables us to leverage the resources of the University to support these agencies and amplify their positive impact. Additionally, we have narrowed the scope of our programs to focus on all stages of the K-12 educational pipeline. We prioritize programs that are sequential and equip students in the community with the tools and skills they need to be prepared for college.

Thriving Neighbor's iPad Program
Navigate here to iPad Program

“Abriendo puertas”
The "Abriendo Puertas" program is an iPad-based tutoring program for Pre-K to 3rd grade students from the Greater Washington Neighborhood in San Jose. Led by Professor Pedro Hernandez Ramos and supported by SCU students as tutors, the program provides kids with an iPad containing education apps for the academic year, and a workbook. Students, parents, and tutors meet every other Saturday for 90-minute classes focused on math and literacy. During this time, parents attend a talk with Dr. Hernandez-Ramos about education through technology.

Anna Sanchez Square
Navigate here to High School Program

The High School mentoring program pairs SCU students with High school students from the Greater Washington Neighborhood. Each of the SCU mentors and their mentees meet via zoom to talk about different topics: applying to California State University, University of California, Private Universities, scholarships, FAFSA, time management, study skills, mental health, imposter syndrome, balancing family and college life, etc. The topics covered between mentor and mentees were defined collectively, based on the HS students' needs. In addition, HS parents, mentees, and mentors the parents met up to our times throughout the year.

Hands making a heart
Navigate here to Better Together Program

The aim of this program is to create a series of "community wellness modules" that are specifically designed for the local community. The primary objectives are to provide mental health information that is culturally and linguistically appropriate, to encourage conversations about mental health and wellness, and to offer practical information and skills for managing and understanding one's mental health.  The project uses a "train the trainers" model, where a team of SCU students led by Dr. Jasmin Llamas developed the core modules and trained Community Leaders and Promotoras. These leaders and promotoras, along with the team, then disseminate the information to community members.

Making an Impact

“Thriving Neighbors has been a part of the reason that my goal of going to college is becoming a reality. Although SCU doesn’t offer the major or a program to help my goal of becoming a Physical Therapist, I thank them for helping me grow as a student as well as a person.”

- Jose, HS Mentoring Program, 2023


Greater Washington Mural
Navigate here to The Power of Community Engagement

As the former Senior Program Director for the Ignatian Center's Thriving Neighbors program, Irene Cermeño understands the power of community engagement. She has been involved in some capacity with the Ignatian Center from the start of her "Super Bronco" journey, but it is her relationship with the Greater Washington community members and their trust in her that fills her with joy.

ANthony Hascheff on Immersion hugging kids
Navigate here to Changing Paths, Changing the World

After graduating from SCU with a degree in Finance, Anthony Hascheff '15 chose a different path and volunteered with the Peace Corps for 18 months. Now pursuing his Master's in Public Administration from Columbia University, Anthony attributes this change in direction to his time with the Ignatian Center's Thriving Neighbors program.

  • Better Together Congratulations

    Congratulations to the participants of the Second Phase of our Better Together Program! Through a partnership between Thriving Neighbors and Sacred Heart Community Service, a group of five Promotoras trained by a team from SCU’s Psychology and Counseling department provide a training to a group of 14 women on communication strategies, emotion management and decision making.

Get Involved

Thriving Neighbors offers community engaged learning opportunities through through fellowship positions. These experience-broadening positions challenge SCU students to strengthen their leadership abilities, engage in vocational discernment, deepen their understanding of social justice issues, and provide financial funding support.

Tutoring & Mentoring Fellowship

Your support ensures that we can continue to develop partnerships in the community, support programming, and provide compensation for our SCU student fellows. Your gift is tax deductible to the extent allowable by law. SCU's Tax ID is 94-1156617.

Donate by selecting Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education > ICJE Thriving Neighbors Initiative

Our programs connect Santa Clara University faculty, staff, and students with Greater Washington residents, community leaders, and organizations to build local capacity for expanded educational choice, transformational relationships through collaborative engagement, participatory action-research-based scholarship, and more. Whether you are looking to volunteer or build a partnership, we would love to get you connected to Thriving Neighbors. 

Iliana Molina Estrada
Edgar Martinez

The Ignatian Center’s Thriving Neighbors Program invites proposals for faculty/student/community partners program development and research grants for projects that demonstrate a lived example of Ignatian Solidarity and Leadership within the context of collaborative work in the Washington Neighborhood of San Jose. 

If you are interested in more information, please contact us.