Vol. 20, No. 15
May 3, 2001
Cooperative town/gown clean-up
Clean-up and spruce-up will be the name of the game in Newark May 4-5 when volunteers assemble to fix up, neaten up, tidy up and dig upfollowed by planting and landscapingthe yards of homes on South College Avenue, between the bridge and Park Place. Activities are planned from 10 a.m-3 p.m., Friday, May 4; and 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Saturday, May 5.
The project began in a geography class taught by April Veness, associate professor at UD. She said she thought students in her social geography class should have hands-on experience in the community to demonstrate some of the principles she was teaching.
"I have been teaching a two-semester module in social geography and have focused on student tenants," she said. "This year, I wanted to go beyond collecting data and test the hypothesis that, when people improve the appearance of their neighborhoods, they become more involved, improve relationships with neighbors and take more interest in the community."
During the first semester, students collected data interviewing tenants, homeowners and landlords.
Three landlords talked to the class and answered questions, as did Newark City Councilman Tom Wampler, Veness said.
The project mushroomed into a town/gown event involving student and community volunteers, UD support, homeowners, landlords, renters and the city of Newark, Veness said.
"I am the cheerleader for the project and have had great support from my students, particularly Jeremy Phillips, a geography major who graduates in May, and Matt Harrigan, a sophomore communication major, who both are doing this as an independent study project. Everybody's on boardstudents in the class and other student groups, the city, the University and those who live or own houses in the area. It's a good way to build bridges," she said.
Harrigan said that the class interviewed most of the households on South College Avenue, both student tenants and homeowners. "I've learned how people impact neighborhoods and affect the personality of an area. It's been an interesting project," he said.
Phillips has been a student tenant himself for three years, but not on South College. He said the interviews gave him insights into the issues and concerns of students, landlords, homeowners, the city and the University.
"Communication is the important link, with students having more voice," he said. "By working together, many positive things can be accomplished. What we are doing on South College will have a long-term effect on the neighborhood and maybe can lead to projects in other areas."
The students and other volunteers (approximately 75 have signed up) will provide the person power; the University will offer trees and plants and a landscaping crew; the city will provide a Dumpster for trash; and homeowners, renters and landlords will give their input and support. The volunteers will do the clean-up, possibly a little porch painting, and plant shrubs and plants, while the landscaping crew under the direction of Tom Taylor, landscape engineer at UD, will plant flowering trees donated by the University.
According to UD Executive Vice President David Hollowell, "The stretch between the bridge and Park Place is the gateway to the city and the main campus of the University, and this project will help to enhance the area, which introduces visitors to the community."
After two days of work, it will be party time at an outdoor appreciation reception, sponsored by UD, for the volunteers at 3 p.m., Saturday, on South College, where all the volunteers will be able to survey the results of their labor and compare notes and calluses.
Veness joined the UD faculty in 1986. She has a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, a master's degree from Michigan State and her doctorate from the University of Minnesota.
For information or to volunteer, call Veness at 831-8267 or send e-mail to [veness @udel.edu].
Photo by KATHY FLICKINGER