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San Jose Project Brings SCU Community into Contact with Poverty

By Matt P Jackobsen (Special Section Reporter)

The Santa Clara, Vol 64 No 13
3 April 1986

Steve Privett, SJ, and Sonny Manuel, SJ, live in East San Jose where they are trying to bring the underserved population of San Jose into contact with the University.

                  The two Jesuits live in a four-bedroom house, located at 2891 El Monte Way, established in January as part of a University program, the East Side Community Project, inspired by the Institute of Poverty last year and funded by the Bannan Foundation.

                  Their goal is to involve the faculty and students of SCU with the underserviced and underprivileged communities of San Jose.

                  “This is not primarily a service project,” said Manuel, he said they want “to learn about the ethnic groups in San Jose who are underrepresented in the structures of power and influence in society…

                  “We as a University can learn from the community, and we have resources that we can share with them,” added Manuel.

                  Privett and Manuel have completed the first of three phases in initiating their program – deciding on an underserviced community. They work in the neighborhood surrounding the Most Holy Trinity Parish, the largest parish of the San Jose Diocese, chosen because of its large population of poor and underserved ethnic groups, including Mexican-Americans, Central American refugees, newly immigrated Hispanics, Filipinos and Vietnamese.

                  Secondly, they will try to identify the specific needs of the community. Manuel and Privett are working through the parish, its programs and other contacts in the neighborhood to determine those needs. They hope to create community health services, education, programs and recreational opportunities.

                  Third, they will promote faculty and student interaction with this segment of San Jose’s population, so that both groups can learn from each other. While the house is located in East San Jose, the two want the University to address the needs of all the underserved in San Jose.

                  For example, In Manuel’s class, “Advanced Topics in Clinical/Abnormal Psychology,” some students are working with the homeless and mentally ill.

                  This quarter, Privett and Philip Boo Riley, of the Religious Studies Department, are teaching a class, “Faith, Justice and Poverty,” which provides an academic context for the students involved with local community service work to talk about the experience and learn from it.

                  In the future, said Manuel, they hope to work with other divisions, like the Ethnic Studies Program and the Political Science Department, which are already interested in working with the underserved population.

                  One option is for students to organize community activities, working within East San Jose neighborhoods. While studying, hypothetically, the “Politics of Community Organization,” they can learn about the political, economic and social conditions in which the poor and neglected struggle.

                  Privett and Manuel agree that “the residence should not be seen as the establishment of another small Jesuit community, but as an essential element of a new apostolic-educational program sponsored by the University.”

                  Privett says, “The Jesuit challenge is that all enterprises must somehow make a contribution to a more just society and social structure.”

                  Privett and Manuel are offering a challenge to the University’s educational resource to respond to the community’s expressed needs. They want to bring the life experience of the poor and marginal into the consciousness of the University community.

                  “People form the University will be working for the community,” says Privett. “We want the University to have a sensitivity to a society that is absent from the University community in terms of education, income and ethnic background.”

                  Manuel says, “We live in a multicultural and multiracial world. It is important that students develop their professional and vocational careers while being sensitive to people’s needs.”

                  Specific skills that are learned at the University can be put to use for other people, not just career advancement.

                  “We are going to share our privileges,” says Manuel. “Students here have a power they are not aware of from their social and educational experiences. If their passion became service that power could be used to service the community, the talent is there. We just have to cultivate the passion. “

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