The Community Scholars Program, spearheaded by Dr. Judy Hutchinson, Executive Director for the Center for Academic Service-Learning and Research, and other key Service-Learning staff, marks a groundbreaking effort to introduce a collaborative model of community-based scholarship focused on improving the overall health of the City of Azusa. The program united a range of city institutions: the Azusa Police Department, Our Neighborhood Homework House, the Azusa City Library, St. Frances of Rome Church, the Neighborhood Wellness Center, the Azusa Chamber of Commerce, the Azusa Unified School District, and Azusa Pacific University.
Above: Scholars receiving their “Community Builder” awards.
From left: Nancy Johnson (Azusa City Library), Father Aloysius Ezeonyeka (St. Frances of Rome), Emma Cook (Chamber of Commerce), Crystal Marquez (Our Neighborhood Homework House), Dr. Robert Duke (Azusa Pacific University), Alexis Ruiz-Alessi (Azusa Unified School District), Julia Pusztai (Neighborhood Wellness Center), and Xavier Torres (Azusa Police Department).
Representatives from each partner agency/organization met regularly throughout the spring 2011 semester, learning and implementing community development research tools, which included studying the history and current state of Azusa, generating a shared vision for its future, mapping and evaluating each agency’s network, evaluating top concerns facing the city, and creating interlocking chains of resources and partnerships to address those issues.
The Community Scholars Program yielded many significant insights into the challenges, opportunities, and underlying infrastructure of the city, as well as new avenues for networking and partnership.
True community empowerment was demonstrated, as the program supported the capacity of the city of Azusa and its members to act as scholars and generate knowledge by collaborating in this sustainable community-building project.
Xavier Torres, Azusa Police sergeant concluded, “It was a unique program that brought strangers together who became friends and can now work together and share resources.” Moving forward, the Community Scholars plan to meet on a quarterly basis, rotating host responsibilities, and maintaining strong relationships and dynamic project collaboration.
On September 19, the Community Scholars reunited for their inaugural quarterly reunion, graciously hosted by St. Frances of Rome Church. The group dined together, renewed previous commitments, and discussed ongoing collaborative projects, before attending the Azusa City Council meeting and formally presenting the activities and outcomes of the Community Scholars Program, spreading their excitement and vision for a strong, healthy Azusa.