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Xavier wins federal grant to create community center

Partnership to improve housing, schools and business in Evanston and Norwood

11/09/04

Xavier University is one of 14 schools nationwide to win a three-year federal community development grant of nearly $400,000.

The highly competitive Community Outreach Partnering Center (COPC) grant will be used to address community needs in the Evanston and Norwood neighborhoods that border the University.

Specific areas to be addressed by the grant are upgrading the housing stock, partnering to improve education at a neighborhood elementary school, enhancing the retail corridor and developing leaders from the community.

The grant, awarded through the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of University Partnerships, will be administered through the newly created Evanston-Norwood-Xavier (ENX) Partnering Center.

A news conference held Tuesday, Nov. 9, at Xavier introduced the grant, the new partnering center and its potential impact on the local community to Cincinnati-area media.

“This award provides powerful affirmation for the strategic community engagement initiatives that have been underway on our campus in recent years,” said Xavier President Michael J. Graham, S.J.

“The grant marries two essential components of our work: the community’s expressed needs and the University’s academic mission and Jesuit, Catholic identity.”

He noted that faculty members from eight departments are already committed to doing research and consulting on the project. In addition, there are six existing or proposed academic courses on campus that are directly linked to the work being funded by the grant.

Byron White, director of the Community Building Collaborative at Xavier and the Community Building Institute, is responsible for administering the program. White and Sharon Muyaya, president of the Evanston Community Council, are chairing a steering committee of 13 community representatives, including residents and directors of local organizations, and 13 Xavier representatives, including faculty and students.

A subcommittee of community and Xavier “experts” has been assigned to each of the four strategic areas. The grant also covers the cost of a coordinator, several part-time internships, and stipends for neighborhood coordinators.

White, a former Cincinnati Post reporter and editor who came to Xavier nearly three years ago from The Chicago Tribune where he was senior manager of community relations, said the grant allows his office to take Xavier’s community engagement a step up.

“Xavier is often viewed as being the ‘conscience’ of the community,” White said. “The COPC grant gives us the financial backing to turn ideas into actions.”

Other staff members directly involved in administering the grant are Liz Blume, associate director of the Community Building Institute and former planning director for the city of Cincinnati, Ohio State Rep. Steve Driehaus, a senior consultant for CBI, and Trina Jackson, CBI program director.

In addition to the $392,000 from HUD, funding for the project over the three-year period includes $156,000 cash from Xavier, $475,000 in Xavier staff time, and $235,000 in cash contributions and in-kind services from organizations such as the Cincinnati Public Schools, the Home Ownership Center of Greater Cincinnati, the Community Redevelopment Group, the Evanston Community Council and PNC Bank.

This year, $6.7 million in federal community center grants were awarded to schools and universities in urban settings. Among the 14 schools winning grants are Emory University, the University of Massachusetts and Pennsylvania State University. The University of Akron is the only other Ohio school to receive an award.

For more on the grant recipients and the selection criteria, visit the HUD web site. Funding will be available to the schools before the end of the calendar year.