‘Community Based Learning’ comes to Centennial neighborhood

Here’s why you should take a few moments to speak with PSU students who will be coming to Centennial Community Association homes asking for your help with a survey …

Jean Whitford, John Beck, Brian Hoop, Patty Hicks, Kevin Kecskes, Richard Bixby, Mike Vander Veen met at St. Timothy Lutheran Church to “rough in” the flow of the “Introduction to Civic Leadership” course work in which they’re engaged. Jean Whitford photo

Story by Mike Vander Veen
“The community is our classroom”, says Portland State University (PSU) Professor Kevin Kecskes. He should know, he’s lectured internationally on the subject of Community Based Learning (CBL), a style of education that he’s been developing for years.

Here’s why this is important to his students: 25% of the grade Professor Kecskes will give each of the 25-30 students in his fall “Introduction to Civic Leadership” course will be awarded based on “community interaction.” For this class, that community interaction will happen in East Portland’s Centennial neighborhood.

And, there’s real value to the Centennial residents, as well. This project will help neighbors discover common ground; the values and ideas they share that can help improve their community.

Partnership is not a word that Kecskes uses lightly. He enters into thoughtful relationship with the community members with whom he works. They design the course with him, and he expects them to become “fellow professors”, sharing knowledge specific to the community with the students. This happens as Kecskes’ partners lead community interaction portions of the course in the target neighborhood.

To set this the program in motion, an initial agreement was struck between PSU and Portland’s Office of Neighborhood Involvement. Brian Hoop of Portland Office of Neighborhood Involvement (ONI), connected with Richard Bixby of the East Portland Neighborhood Office (EPNO), our outer East Portland neighborhood coalition. At a meeting with two PSU professors, two ONI representatives and two EPNO staff, three possible projects were reviewed and a project in Centennial was selected in part for its level of readiness.

Entitled “Creating Capacity for Community”, the project is energizing a Neighborhood Small Grants program submitted by Pastor John Beck of St. Timothy Lutheran Church.

During the two business days PSU, ONI, and EPNO partners met with Beck, his associate Jean Whitford and Centennial Community Association Clerk, Patty Hicks, this group roughed in a plan for involving PSU students in the work of knocking on doors in Centennial.

Their purpose is to discover what people in the area care enough about to join their neighbors in positive action. Two community gatherings will be organized to follow up the door-to-door effort.

Class started September 30. So, when a Portland State University CBL student comes to your door, please take a few minutes to share with them both the challenges and assets of residing in the Centennial area.

© 2009 East Portland News

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