June 7, 2005 > Building stronger relationships
Building stronger relationships
by Tony C. Yang
Seeking to close the achievement gap, stop youth violence and encourage community involvement, Union City COR (Congregations Organizing for Renewal) has started a dialogue with community leaders to create more "affordable, safe, local and relevant" activities for neighborhood youth."We need to work together as a community," said Jaurequi. "No one group can do it by themselves."
In a Citywide Action Forum held on May 18, hundreds of concerned Tri-City residents, school board dignitaries, police brass and students gathered at St. Anne's Catholic Church to discuss the pressing issues of education, after-school activities and other concerns. Entitled "Safe Harbors for Union City Youth," the action forum gave community members a chance to voice their opinion and ideas in an open environment.
"We're not about pointing fingers," said COR member Sherry Costa. "This is about a community coming together to work on shared concerns and solving problems." She has been involved with COR for about a year, and is also part of Families for Hope, a local organization that specializes in address the problems of at-risk youth.
The main problem seems to be a lack of substantive activities for local youngsters. Costa said, "The biggest problem is [little to] no activities- what leisure services are offered are often quite costly."
While Union City's leisure services has been offering youth activities (i.e. gymnastics, swimming, etc.), these programs often cost $45 and more for lessons and classes. As a result, many cash-strapped families are unable to afford after-school activities for their teenagers.
Due to this situation and other obstacles, COR has embarked on an "ongoing campaign" to collaborate with city officials to create readily available, affordable and inclusive youth activities- with the input of the youth themselves.
Along with New Haven Unified School District Superintendent Patricia Jaurequi, Union City Police Chief Randy Ulibarri and Union City School Board member Jenn Stringer, dozens of students of the New Haven District were on hand to have their say. This unexpected but welcome outpouring of youthful support and perspective is exactly what community leaders have been seeking; COR's goal is to build stronger relationships between local government and the community at-large.
According to COR's website, they strive to "bring congregations together in the common pursuit of improving our communities." A faith-based, grassroots community organization, COR is comprised of 14 congregations in the greater Tri-City area, encompassing over 25,000 families.
"We have many children who are not successful in feeling connected to their schools," Superintendent Patricia Jaurequi said. "Our challenge and opportunity is to work collaboratively to create a bright and promising future for them." She added she was very glad to see the high turnout at the COR forum by students and parents alike, who "share my passion" for education and opportunity.
During the forum, speeches were made and several proposals were discussed. Ideas were tossed around to see what would stick and what the students preferred. Items under consideration include, but are not limited to: smaller learning communities, advisories, parent-teacher home visits and funding opportunities for small schools. There is also talk of activity scholarships and perhaps even a basketball gym.
As the impetus for this community roundtable, COR has identified possible locations where these activities can be restored, expanded and improved, including: the Contempo Resource Center, the Teen Work Shop and the new Alternative Education Center Facility.
More COR action forums are planned, and everyone interested in providing input is invited to attend. At the end of these community brainstorm sessions, according to COR, community leaders will present their vision for both Logan High School and the Alternative Education Center.
Based on these suggestions and ideas, other exciting possibilities and opportunities for youth are sure to come, as long as the community remains involved and engaged.
For more information call (510) 727-8833 or visit www.corcommunity.org.