Community-driven Initiatives Along the Central Corridor Furthered by Summer Interns

By: Emily Seru, HECUA (Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs)
October 3, 2012

Community organizations along the Central Corridor LRT line have been making use of college interns to work on issues ranging from equitable development, to environmental justice, to the promotion of art and culture. The HECUA Central Corridor Internship Program helps communities connect the energy and enthusiasm of interns with community-driven initiatives. Over three years of this program, HECUA has placed twenty-nine interns at sixteen organizations along the Central Corridor Light Rail Transit in Saint Paul. Those interns have worked more than 11,200 hours on community-designed projects seeking to engage, inform, and empower residents of neighborhoods near the LRT. Community organizations design the projects; HECUA seeks foundation funding and recruits and supports the interns as they implement each project over a 400-hour summer internship.

Examples of community-designed projects from summers 2011 and 2012:

 

Asian Economic Development Association

  • Supported struggling small Asian businesses along the Corrido
  • Promoted the "Little Mekong" business district near Western and University

Aurora St. Anthony NDC–African American Cultural Center

  • Connected with artists, musicians, and performers in the African American community to gather ideas and visions for the Center
  • Organized a series of listening sessions hosted by local artists

Frogtown Gardens

  • Engaged residents about urban farming and gardening as they raise the funds to secure the vacant Wilder property within the neighborhood
  • Assembled an archive of photos, videos, and social media postings on a summer’s worth of gardening and farming activities in Frogtown to promote excitement about and knowledge of urban gardening initiatives

Friendly Streets Initiative

  • Helped to organize block parties and collated data from resident surveys on street calming and placemaking concepts for streets parallel to University Avenue
  • Leveraged public input at City-run forums and in letter-writing campaigns to public officials and to the editors of city and community newspapers

Frogtown Neighborhood Association in partnership with Twin Cities LISC

  • Created a map of vacant and foreclosed properties and properties of historical significance which the organizations will use in leveraging funds to help Frogtown residents stay in the neighborhood and to repair aging housing stock

Preserve and Benefit Historic Rondo Committee

  • Helped build support for an African American cultural heritage district in St. Paul — the Historic Rondo Cultural Heritage District
  • Connected with local residents and businesses through one-to-one meetings, community updates, flyers, and education at local events

Union Park District CouncilSkyline Towers

  • Created a summer youth program with Somali and other East African teenagers
  • Led teens on walking tours as a part of the District Councils Collaborative’s walkability study to assess pedestrian access to the Light Rail
  • Created “Dream Boards” detailing the pedestrian amenities they’d like to see added between the high-rise and light rail station and ideas for land use and future amenities such as parks and recreation facilities.

HECUA hopes to continue the Central Corridor Internship Program through summer 2014 and has secured funding for summer 2013 projects. A call for proposals from community organizations wishing to hire a paid summer intern for the summer of 2013 will be announced October 22, 2012. For more information, please contact Emily Seru at eseru@hecua.org.

About HECUA (http://www.hecua.org):
The Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs (HECUA) has more than forty years of experience in academic-community collaborations focused on social justice. HECUA provides experiential learning opportunities that link rigorous academic study with hands-on work for social change. Alumni of HECUA programs have emerged as leaders in community and advocacy organizations in Minnesota and elsewhere. Consortium members are Augsburg College, Augustana College, Carleton College, College of St. Scholastica, Colorado College, Denison University, Gustavus Adolphus College, Hamline University, Macalester College, Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, St. Catherine University, St. Olaf College, Swarthmore College, University of Minnesota, University of St. Thomas, and Minneapolis Community and Technical College.

Funders for the Central Corridor Internship Program have included:
The F.R. Bigelow Foundation
The Central Corridor Funders Collaborative
The Otto Bremer Foundation
The Saint Paul Foundation