Sunnyside may shine green jobs

The Graduate College of Social Work wants to apply their community development plans to Sunnyside, a neighborhood five miles south of UH.

This summer, GCSW offered Interdisciplinary Community Development, a course that takes various academic theories and disciplines and applies to areas in need of further development.

The class of 10, led by adjunct professor Larry Hill, met Thursday with various stakeholders of the Sunnyside community to present community development strategies.
The meeting, which was held at Marcie L. Keys Activity Center, gave students a chance to showcase part of what they learned in a real-world spotlight.

‘The students were called not only (to) learn from UH faculty in the classroom setting, but also from those who fully work in the community,’ Hill said.

Hill said his barber delivered a lecture, and although some students were apprehensive at the beginning, they eventually saw how people such as barbers know a great deal about their communities.

Hill said his students, aspiring community developers, need in-community experiences to make wise choices. Hill fears lack of experience could lead to detached decisions that do not reflect the needs of a community.

Community leaders such as former city councilwoman Ada Edwards, honorary mayor of Sunnyside Sandra Hines, Sunnyside Place Community Development Corporation President James Nash and Sunnyside Super Neighborhood President Charles White, were in attendance.

The class presented a three-tier plan to the community, and an idea for a community vegetable garden.

The first tier includes a summer green arts program for children, ages 5 to 13. The second tier contains hands-on building projects, such as doghouses, a green youth mentor and a trade entry program for people aged 14 to 24. The third tier is an adult green job program that provides training and certification in green building.

The community leaders were interested and skeptical about the presentation.

‘In theory, in a mix community, this would be excellent,’ White said. ‘In this community, for it to work, you would need to have 10 years of independent funding to ensure the success of your plan. We have many groups coming in and out of our neighborhood and doing studies for years, but not much has changed.’

While Hines also questioned the students’ effort, she sees how the community can benefit if the project comes to fruition.

‘This is something of interest,’ Hines said. ‘(The vegetable garden) can be really good for our seniors. We have a lot of elders in our community who are unable to drive to the large grocery stores to get fresh vegetables, so they have to rely heavily on the corner store goods, but that’s expensive and not very nutritious.’

Hill said he and his students are looking for various grants to fund these programs. He said he hopes the class is continually offered, providing a sustainable workforce behind these projects.

The course is a response to a presentation to the UH GCSW from the Houston Department of Health and Human Services. The presentation focused on the various needs of the Sunnyside community.

Sunnyside is a historic African-American neighborhood. Of the population, 38.6 percent live below the poverty line, which is drawn at earnings of $16,700 per year for a four-person family household.

‘In the University, you are here to think and keep abreast of what’s going on and take what I know with the current opportunities, like new grants to the community,’ Hill said. ‘If I don’t bring that to Sunnyside, then I am not being a good steward to the knowledge that I have.’

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