Skip to main content
ICJE Logo Small


Thriving Neighbors Initiative History

The Thriving Neighbors Initiative (TNI) 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. TNI has its foundational roots in the Eastside Project, which later became the Pedro Arrupe, S.J., Center for Community-based Learning and then became incorporated under the Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education.  

The Arrupe Center for Community-based Learning was founded in 1986 as the Eastside Project. Its mission was to establish a mutually beneficial partnership between Santa Clara University and the Eastside neighborhood of San Jose, California that would ultimately fix the concern for justice firmly within the University’s curriculum.

In 2000 the Eastside Project became a center of distinction and was renamed the Pedro Arrupe, S.J., Center for Community-based Learning in honor of the former Superior General of the Jesuit order. The SCU Jesuit Community and the Bill Hannon Foundation are among the major contributors to community-based learning initiatives at Santa Clara.

In 2005 the University brought its most uniquely Jesuit programs together to form the Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education. Two formerly distinct “centers of distinction,” the Bannan Center for Jesuit Education and the Arrupe Center for Community-based Learning, merged to become one.

In the course of these of the 20+ years, the Arrupe Weekly Engagement Program has yielded more than 50 community-based learning (CBL) sites at schools, parishes, and agencies across Silicon Valley where students and faculty learn from the unique challenges they encounter as they contribute their work and interact face-to-face with members of the community. These opportunities advance the Jesuit tradition of the service of faith and the promotion of justice, while uniting and transforming both university and community in a common effort to respond compassionately and self-critically to those most in need. Each year approximately 1,200 undergraduates participate in this signature program.

In 2011, as 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 and engagement all created an environment ripe for this partnership.

In early 2013, the Ignatian Center developed deepened partnerships with Washington Elementary and a group of mother volunteers connected to the school. In the fall of 2013, the Thriving Neighbors Initiative was officially launched with the pillar after-school program serving 45 high-achieving 4th and 5th grade students hosted in leased classroom space at Washington Elementary.

TNI has experienced dramatic growth in scope and depth since that formal launch in 2013. The vision has developed in partnership with community members, key partnerships have expanded, program directors have articulated long-term goals, and program offerings deepen their reach and impact.