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Santa Clara County and Santa Clara University – Thriving Together


By Nina Mota

Santa Clara University’s Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education recently received a $21,000 grant from the County of Santa Clara to support its five-year-old Thriving Neighbors program. That program helps support education for children in the Greater Washington neighborhood of San José, including Washington Elementary School, while promoting pathways to prosperity for families facing economic challenges.

The grant is the first government grant ever received by the Ignatian Center, according to Executive Director Father Dorian Llywelyn, S.J., and is a testament to the program’s growing value to the community.

“We are particularly excited by this development. It’s a vote of confidence in the impact of our work in adult and child education together with the inhabitants of the Greater Washington neighborhood,” says Llywelyn. “All our community work is done in a whole network of collaborations, and we are delighted to add Santa Clara County as a partner.”

The grant was proposed by Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, who felt Thriving Neighbors was well-aligned with the county’s core mission of serving high-need communities and neighborhoods.

“Our county programs and Thriving Neighbors complement each other,” said Supervisor Chavez. That synergy, along with Thriving Neighbors’ “track record of success, make this a sound investment,” she added.

The $21,000 grant from Santa Clara County, matched by the Ignatian Center, will allow Thriving Neighbors to expand its after-school enrichment initiatives across the neighborhood, increase participation in the My Own Business Institute entrepreneurship course, further its work with the public school-based Bronco Urban Garden initiative, and more.

“This grant will allow us to offer more residents in the Greater Washington Community a chance to explore new entrepreneurial opportunities,” says Irene Cermeño, program director for Thriving Neighbors.

Santa Clara University’s Ignatian Center has a history of wide and deep community impact. As one of three “Centers of Distinction” at the university, the center exemplifies and activates the Jesuit, Catholic character of SCU, and through its Thriving Neighbors program, that character is put into action in the community of Greater Washington.

SCU faculty, staff and students have worked side-by-side with local resident leaders, schools, and agencies to develop and sustain a variety of community-based, public service programs. These initiatives include entrepreneurship classes for adults after-school enrichment courses,community gardening projects,  environmental improvements, health and wellness-centered activities, and more.

“Thriving Neighbors projects have accumulated over 15,000 hours of university-community engagement time and service this past year alone and have made a real impact as measured by children’s achievement and parent satisfaction,” said Jen Merritt, director of community-based learning programs at the Ignatian Center.

“In the midst of this collaborative work, what we find most rewarding is the way in which community residents from Greater Washington have become co-educators with our SCU faculty,” says Merritt. “When they form strong bonds with SCU students, welcoming them into their homes and encouraging them to serve as mentors for their children on the path to college readiness, they are teaching these college students that, together, we can make a positive difference in our communities.”