We were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work with a range of different programs during the summer of 2011. Our Tip Sheets were field tested with these programs, and the Case Studies included in a number of the following sections provide our reflections on that work.
East Saint Louis
Located across the river from St. Louis, MO, East St. Louis (ESL) was once a bustling, industrial center, anchoring the metro east area of southwestern Illinois. For the past fifty years, the city has suffered a series of setbacks–industries closing, a mass exodus of residents, a rise in crime rates, and loss of city services to the county seat. As a result, the city and its almost entirely African-American population has been most recently defined by its problems rather than its successes. This has created a negative feedback loop of both residents’ and non-residents’ perspectives of the city.
East St. Louis Park District
We worked specifically in Jones Park, an expansive park in the ESL park district that hosts summer youth programming. In addition to a small fishing lake, several trails, a field and playground, there is also a water park and administration building on the park grounds. Irma Golliday, the director of the park district, has set up programming for ESL youth in a building adjacent to the water park. This summer the park received CBDG (Community Block Development Grant) funding for a summer camp. There is one camp coordinator on staff; grant funding allowed Jones Park to hire several high-school-aged counselors to help with daily activities. Staff employees are also on hand to take care of administration and maintenance. Irma received notice of grant funding late into the summer, and so hired counselors and admitted participants one week before UIUC pilot programming began. Jones Park was also a previous Community Informatics course site, and thereby received four computers in the administration office and eleven more in the central building near the water park, to be incorporated into a computer lab for camp participants. Edubuntu Linux operating systems were installed on the lab computers; the admin computers are Windows systems. Only the admin office building computers have access to the Internet.
Mary E. Brown Center
The Mary E. Brown Center (MBC), located in the south end of East St. Louis, is part of the Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House (LBDNH), one of the largest and oldest social services providers in the city. Catering to youth aged five through twenty, programming is year-round, focusing on engaging students and equipping them with skills to succeed in school and support each other. Vera Jones, the director, with other staff, helps to coordinate, implement, and support programming there. The center is serving 150 students this summer, though that number varies from year to year. The robust, yet flexible programming structure makes it easier for other outside programs to weave themselves into center programming and supplement curricula. Previous University of Illinois Community Informatics classes equipped the Center with nineteen desks and computers outfitted with Windows Vista, film- and audio-editing applications, as well as a suite of other current software.
Champaign, Illinois, is a city in East Central Illinois with a population of about 80,000 people according to 2010 census estimates. Along with its sister city, Urbana Illinois, it is home the the Univeristy of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The Champaign community is a diverse one, and the city is home to people from varied backgrounds, education and income levels. Champaign overall is 71% white, 15% black and 5% Hispanic. Much of the black population lives in the historically black neighborhoods in North Champaign that served as our host for these community media projects.
Joann Dorsey Homes
Joann Dorsey Homes is a 68-home public housing development in Champaign, Illinois, built in 1952 and reconstructed in 1993. It provides Section 8 housing to “low-income, elderly, and disabled individuals and families.”1 There is a strong sense of community among many of the residents, exemplified by Ms. Margaret Neil, a Dorsey Homes resident, volunteer and commissioner with the housing authority board, who offers regular homework help and activities for youth in the community. The Margaret Neil Community Resource Center, which is used as a community meeting space as well as an area for children to do homework and projects, boasts a public computing lab with three computers running Windows XP with Internet access and printers. Pursuant to a grant from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, Dorsey Homes is scheduled to be demolished in 2011 to make way for a new mixed-income development; Section 8 vouchers have been issued to residents, though as of July 27, 2011, only five families have located acceptable housing that satisfied HUD Section 8 voucher requirements.2
Salem Baptist Church
Salem Baptist Church is one of the oldest African American churches in Champaign County, founded in 1867. It has a total congregation of around 250 members and frequently draws between 75 and 100 members for Sunday services. Salem has a public computer lab established by the University of Illinois, with nine computers running Windows XP and Windows 7. The computer lab is outfitted with a combination printer/scanner, broadband Internet, and a webcam. Salem Baptist Church views the computer lab as a church ministry open to church members as well as non-members from the surrounding neighborhood. Carole Lewis expressed a desire to relocate the computers, which are used for a variety of educational classes as well as open lab time, into a larger room in the Salem Baptist Church building.
Salt and Light
Salt and Light is a faith-based nonprofit organization located in the Dobbins Downs neighborhood in Champaign. It offers its clients a food pantry, a clothing closet and a 13-week financial literacy class. Salt and Light also has a computer lab with Linux-based computers donated by the University of Illinois in the Spring of 2011. Though the computer lab is open to the public, work on lab infrastructure limits its use. Salt and Light is an organization that has relationships with the GSLIS program and CU-CitizenAccess, but our summer project did not work directly with Salt and Light. Still, this organization is an ideal recipient of this documentation and developed curriculum.
Shadow Wood is a mobile home park in Champaign, Illinois. It has more than 250 occupied units and about 850 residents, most of whom are Hispanic. The mobile home park has a public computer lab with computers donated by the University of Illinois. The computer lab is infrequently used, however, because it lacks a regular lab monitor or consistent programming. In the past it has been staffed by University of Illinois students for open lab time, but these open labs usually have low attendance. Our project did not work directly with Shadow Wood this summer, but the mobile home park has an existing relationship with the University of Illinois and also with CU-CitzenAccess. Shadow Wood would benefit from regular, consistent programming, ideally initiated by University students studying Spanish, English as a Second Language, journalism or library science. After the lab sees some regular attendance, an electronic, swipe-access system could be implemented in place of a regular lab monitor.
CU-CitizenAccess stories about Shadow Wood (written separately from our summer projects):