A Staten Island college is looking to expand its community outreach efforts by creating a partnership to address several issues including healthcare access and youth violence. NY1's Amanda Farinacci filed the following report.
Community activists working in the Port Richmond section of Staten Island say the North Shore neighborhood suffers from a wide array of issues, like poor healthcare access, youth obesity, limited economic and educational opportunities as well as racial and ethnic tensions, and youth violence.
That's why Wagner College President Richard Guarasci says it's the perfect place to begin a five year union between the college and seven community groups and focus Wagner's volunteer activities on a single community.
"Our goal is to see for instance that childhood obesity will be reduced in this community significantly in three to five years, that literacy will go up significantly in three to five years, that economic development breakthroughs with regards to new businesses and new entrepreneurs will begin to emerge here," said Guarasci. "If we can begin to foster that with the community we think we're a good neighbor."
The 2006 Census showed Port Richmond is one of the borough's most diverse communities, with large African American and Latino populations, along with a significant number of undocumented Mexican immigrants.
Protecting the rights of those workers and teaching them to speak english is a high priority.
"We need a lot of help for someone with ESL classes, to do practice with the students, but as well working with policy, doing research, for example with low wage workers, immigrant workers, what are the issues they're facing right now?" said Gonzalo Mercado, El Centro de Inmigrante.
Under the partnership, different academic departments will team with specific agencies, so professors and students will become more familiar with the work of their organization and are better able to serve the community needs.
"I think there's been a lot of headway made with regard to health care in that community, but it needs to be developed more and also housing, housing stock," said Will Nichols, Project Hospitality.
Students will report on their progress as part of their course requirements.
Organizers are hopeful the project will eventually expand to other Island neighborhoods and involve other colleges as well.