Community Engagement and Volunteering

Clark students out in the community

University Park Partnership Accomplishments and Initiatives

In this unique partnership, initiatives are developed and implemented by neighborhood residents with significant results. Residents are moving into safe, affordable housing. Neighborhood children and their parents have access to some of the best educational opportunities in the nation. New businesses are sprouting. And events, activities and special programs are improving the overall quality of life in Main South. Perhaps most importantly, people care about their neighborhood again.

Housing and Physical Rehabilitation

Clark and the Main south CDC recognized early that home ownership is critical to neighborhood stability. Poorly managed, multiunit housing was the cause of many problems for residents and a major contributor to blight in Main south.

To overcome this challenge, the Main south CDC bought dilapidated housing, converted it into clean, safe, affordable units and then helped residents buy or rent this new housing. Clark supported this effort by offering a line of credit to the Main South CDC in the early years of development. In addition Clark offers one of the most aggressive home-buying incentive programs in the country to encourage faculty and staff to move into the neighborhood.

  • Over the past 16 years, the Main south CDC has renovated more than 200 units of housing, sold 30 homes to first-time homeowners and used more than $18 million in grants and housing tax credits.
  • The Main South CDC manages these units, which currently have a 90 percent occupancy rate and a waiting list of more than 100 families.
  • Eighteen properties were renovated and sold to first-time homebuyers.
  • Approximately 22 Clark faculty and staff bought homes in the neighborhood through the University's incentive program.
  • The residence of Clark's president was relocated to Main South. Harrington House, located on Main South's historic Woodland Street, reflects Clark's commitment to UPP.
  • Clark also purchased and rehabilitated several other properties on the perimeter of campus. These buildings have been integrated architecturally and aesthetically into the Clark campus and are used for the University's educational purposes.
  • A Center for Community Revitalization was established in a rehabilitated office building in Main South. The center houses the Main South CDC offices, community meeting rooms, economic and business development services, computer training for neighborhood residents, and affordable day care for neighborhood residents and Clark faculty, staff and graduate students.

Education

Educational excellence is key to long-term sustainable change and essential to the success of any community. Top-quality public education, coupled with access to the vibrant intellectual life of a university, is a powerful incentive for home ownership. In Main South, neighborhood residents have some of the best educational opportunities in the country right in their backyards.

  • Clark offers free tuition to residents who meet the University's admissions requirements and who have lived in UPP's targeted Main South neighborhood for at least five years. Currently, 11 neighborhood residents are enrolled at Clark under this scholarship program and a total of 33 have participated.
  • Clark faculty teach seminars for UPCS students, and UPCS juniors and seniors earn college credit by taking courses at Clark.
  • More than 200 neighborhood residents attend adult education classes offered through UPP. These classes include GED, English as a Second Language I and II, basic computer training and computer training for the Internet.
  • Public-school teachers in Main south and throughout Worcester receive professional development through Clark's Jacob Hiatt Center for Urban Education. The Hiatt Center's Professional Development School collaborative with the Worcester Public Schools offers a comprehensive program for training new teachers and supporting veteran teachers. Clark has provided more than $3 million in free tuition to Worcester teachers who participate in the collaborative.
  • Clark's Hiatt center is also a leader in the Worcester Education Partnership (WEP). This broad-based coalition is spearheading a citywide school-reform initiative supported by an $8 million "Schools for a New Society" grant from the Carnegie Corporation. Using UPCS as a model, WEP is working to transform large public secondary schools into small learning communities. The Hiatt Center serves as the hub for WEP activities, and many Clark faculty members serve on WEP.

Economic Development

Stimulating economic growth and opportunity is also a focus of UPP. Financing and technical assistance are helping new businesses take root in Main South. Training and other services are opening new doors for neighborhood residents seeking better jobs.

  • Small business loans from a revolving loan pool administered by the Main South CDC are a resource for new business owners. These loans provide financing for individuals who are unable to acquire conventional loans and help small business owners establish credit.
  • The Main South CDC works with Clark's Graduate School of Management and the Small Business Development Center, a state-funded center based at Clark, to provide technical assistance to small business owners. These services include individual consultations, business skills workshops, networking opportunities and the chance to discuss ideas and financial matters with an accountant.
  • The Main South Workforce Development Training Center, located in the Center for Community Revitalization at the Main South CDC, helps neighborhood residents and area businesses with employment needs. The Training Center offers an employment-opportunity database and employment training and education. Neighborhood residents take advantage of job placement services and workshops on typing, resume writing and interviewing.

Social and Recreational Programs

An important goal of UPP is to keep young people active in educational and recreational activities throughout the year. Likewise, an important goal for Clark is to welcome neighborhood residents and their children onto the University campus. Residents attend a wide variety of events at Clark and enjoy the University┬╣s facilities and quiet, green spaces. For Clark, it's all just part of being a good neighbor.

  • A free summer recreation program, serving more than 150 neighborhood children, is held on the Clark campus every year. Clark staff coordinate the program, Clark students serve as counselors, and UPCS students serve as junior counselors.
  • A free music program offered through Clark and run by a Clark faculty member offers instrumental music lessons to neighborhood children. Clark students also help with this program.
  • In addition to attending campus events, most of which are free, neighborhood residents use the Goddard library and Kneller Athletic Center.
  • A church basketball league, supported by Clark, serves more than 500 area children, including approximately 200 from the Main South neighborhood.

Community Engagement

Clark's involvement with UPP is a natural outgrowth of the University's tradition of social activism and its reputation for finding creative unconventional solutions to real-world problems. Clark students, faculty and alumni have always been involved with community organizations and neighborhood initiatives. UPP has inspired even more of these activities and created new opportunities for community involvement at Clark.

  • Clark's new Community Engagement and Volunteering Center serves as a central hub on campus fro the University's long-standing volunteer efforts. The center maintains a database of Worcester organizations with volunteer programs and provides services that help students find activities that best meet their interests.
  • Urban Development and Social Change (UDSC), an academic concentration for Clark undergraduates, is a direct result of the University's involvement with UPP. The concentration examines the development and evolution of cities. Each year, a select group of UDSC students puts theory into practice with summer research projects. In recent projects, students have collected data about the neighborhood for use by the Main South CDC.
  • Clark students are regular fixtures at the University Park Campus School (UPCS). They complete teaching internships at UPCS, staff the homework center and serve as mentors to UPCS students.
  • Every year, Clark offers 20 Making a Difference scholarships to first-year applicants who have demonstrated a commitment to community service. Recipients also receive a stipend to support a service project with UPP.
  • Partners in Community (PIC) pairs elderly residents of Main South with Clark students, who visit these residents once a week to help with chores or just to chat. The Main South CDC hosts special events for PIC participants, including bingo nights, potluck suppers, tea socials and holiday parties.
  • Through Clark University Brothers and Sisters, Clark students serve as mentors for young people in Worcester and particularly in Main South.
  • Clark basketball players tutor UPCS students in math and read to children at the nearby Goddard School, two long-standing programs that inspired the creation of the Clark Athletics Community Service Committee. The committee sponsors such activities as Athletic Reading Day at nearby elementary schools and participates in neighborhood clean-ups.
  • All Kinds of Girls, a student-run program is geared specifically toward Worcester girls, ages 9 to 12. Once a week, participants meet on campus with their Clark mentors for activities that explore and encourage artistic expression and communication.
  • The Gryphon and Pleiades and the Fiat Lux honor societies at Clark are for students dedicated to both academic excellence and community service. These and many other student organizations work in the neighborhood throughout the year, organizing events, fundraisers and neighborhood clean-ups.

Next Steps

UPP has made great strides in the Main South neighborhood, but there is still work to be done. UPP's latest project involves transforming one of the most distressed areas of the neighborhood back into a thriving community. The Gardner-Kilby-Hammond Street Revitalization Initiative is UPP's most ambitious endeavor yet. The result of a unique collaboration among the Main South CDC, Clark, the Boys and Girls Club and the City of Worcester, this project involves extensive land acquisition, remediation of industrial brownfield sites and the demolition of old facilities. What was once a 30-acre parcel of blight, will soon become a neighborhood again, a place where children play, families gather and businesses open their doors.

This $40-million initiative includes the following:

  • Approximately 60 new home-ownership opportunities and affordable rental properties managed and/or offered by the Main South CDC.
  • A new $8 million Boys and Girls Club to serve children in Main South. The new building will accommodate 400 children and serve up to 5,000 young people. The new facility will include a gymnasium, learning center and Olympic-size swimming pool.
  • New athletic fields, owned by Clark. The fields will be used by Clark intercollegiate and intramural teams, as well as the Boys and Girl Club and the community.
  • And a Center for Community Revitalization to serve this area of Main South.

In addition, the partnership between Clark and the Boys and Girls Club will provide more opportunities to bring Clark students together with neighborhood children.