Neighborhood Ambassadors Offer University Resources
Center for Sustainability
Many students living off-campus at Santa Clara University have the privilege to live a stone’s throw away from campus and have enjoyed this convenience for years. From a brief glance at the blocks of houses just south of campus, one might think that the area is an exclusively student neighborhood--a student paradise, or “Claradise” as some have dubbed it. The reality is that not every dwelling in “Claradise” is comprised of students. Santa Clara families and residents have lived in here for years, long before SCU began to grow beyond a regional university of predominantly commuters, and they have most certainly noticed the shift in the occupants of the surrounding area.
The Office of Student Life has been keen to notice the opportunity to improve neighborhood relations among students and residents in the surrounding neighborhood, and has decided to take action in the form of a new, university-sponsored program called Neighborhood Ambassadors. This program hopes to improve relations between these two groups and create a more balanced neighborhood culture and environment. The project was born out of the mind of Kim Gilkey-Wall, Assistant Dean for Off-Campus Life at the Office Student Life, who has been managing off-campus student life for the past eight years. Neighborhood Ambassadors officially began this academic year, headed by the new Off-Campus Area Coordinator/Neighborhood Liaison Callie Rimpfel (pictured below) and three Student Neighborhood Ambassadors: Jordan Enos '16, Mikey Muchemu '16, and Areany Tolentino '17. Together, the team of four have begun to tackle many projects to jumpstart the Neighborhood Ambassadors program, such as town hall meetings or specific topic workshops.
The Neighborhood Ambassadors team works on multiple levels to serve as a valuable resource in bringing together all members and stakeholders in the Santa Clara neighborhood. The team regularly attends bi-monthly meetings at Santa Clara City Council to discuss SCU’s relationship with the city itself. These are meetings in which landlords, residents, city planners, and the police attend in order to give a complete and representative picture of our place in the larger space we occupy as an institution. Having students attend these meetings is a new occurrence, which is important because students densely occupy a large part of the off-campus neighborhood surrounding the University, making them stakeholders that were not represented before.
On the micro-level of student and resident relations, the Neighborhood Ambassadors have begun hosting events to bring these two groups together in the hopes of establishing lasting relationships. Last fall, the team hosted a Meet-and-Greet Ice Cream Social at Areany’s house for students and neighbors to simply mingle amongst each other and get to know who might be living next door. Areany saw this as a crucial opportunity for residents to become more familiar with students’ lives outside the party scene to give a more fair and accurate understanding of students as hardworking individuals who are involved in any number of organizations and clubs on campus. Not only did students and residents become more friendly neighbors, the residents of the neighborhood were also given a direct channel of communication to students, and thus the University, for any concerns they might have through the Neighborhood Ambassadors program.
Local residents are not the only beneficiaries of this new program. Neighborhood Ambassadors has been running events just for students in order to make the transition to off-campus housing smoother. The student Neighborhood Ambassadors have begun a series of events called Adulting 101. In the series thus far, there was a pasta cooking lesson with Mikey and a Tenants’ Rights Workshop, in which students learned how to read leases, communicate with their landlords, navigate subleasing, and more. The series will continue throughout the year, so look out for these events if you’re an off-campus student! This series, as well as other events are advertised in the "This Week at SCU" weekly emails for the student body.
The Neighborhood Ambassadors want everyone to know that they are open to collaboration on any potential ideas and/or events that people may want to propose! This is a very young program that is seeking to expand its reach off-campus. Reach out to them: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Their office is located at 862 Market St. across from Dunne. As this new program continues to grow, so will the greater Santa Clara community and the members within it.
Check out their Facebook page as well!
Contributed by Alec Kwo ‘ 17, Sustainability Intern for Student Engagement