The Engaging Youth, Engaging Neighborhoods program is offered by NRC and University of Notre Dame. Groups meet after school on Wednesdays, during the season or semester, at Notre Dame Center for Arts and Culture, 1045 W. Washington. This program is free for South Bend youth in grades 6-12, and focuses on civic engagement and personal growth through art, photography, writing and research on community improvement ideas in our neighborhoods. See the links below for online EYEN registration and additional information!
The 2017 session is ready to start in January, so sign up now!
If you would like to know more about the program, please contact Diana at 574.287.0425 or email@example.com.
FAQs About the EYEN Program
What is it?
“Engaging Youth, Engaging Neighborhoods” is a collaborative project between researchers at the University of Notre Dame and the Neighborhood Resources Connection. We value and welcome participation from other community partners.
The Engaging Youth, Engaging Neighborhoods (EYEN) project gives voice to neighborhood youth, grades 6-12, and allows the community to see South Bend neighborhoods through their eyes. Using a disposable camera, students explore their neighborhoods and communicate both what they like, and what they would like to see changed, about where they live. They then meet in small groups to explore literature, art, writing and discussion with Notre Dame professors to talk about why they selected the subjects they did, and to ultimately develop and propose a realistic plan to solve one of the things they identified as needing to be changed.
The EYEN goal is to provide an opportunity for youth to learn how to engage in civic life and to develop a new generation of community leaders. “Key points of EYEN are creating a sense of community, creating a sense of voice, and creating a sense of democratic space,” says program partner Stuart Greene, a University of Notre Dame professor.
Since the program began in fall 2011, EYEN teams have represented and explored three distinct neighborhoods: Monroe Park, the Northeast Neighborhood, and the Near Northwest Neighborhood. They now meet in citywide groups at the Notre Dame Center for Arts and Culture in an expanded version of the program.
The first team recruited by the Monroe Park Neighborhood Association wrote “I am” poems and drew neighborhood maps. A key concern for them was that they had no place to play and they were worried about safety and trash. The identified project was to get a short stretch of broken sidewalk replaced. The Monroe Park team was also able to engage as co-presenters with the professors at a national outreach conference held at the University of Alabama. “To be on campus made them realize they could be there someday,” said Kevin Burke of Notre Dame.
Students from the Photoformers Club at the Robinson Community Learning Center (RCLC) made up the second EYEN team. They explored the Northeast Neighborhood in which the RCLC is located, and decided they wanted to improve Kelly Park on Howard Street, just a couple blocks west of the center. They did their research, developed their plan and presented it first to the Northeast Neighborhood Council and then to South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who said the city would help with their plan.
The Northeast Neighborhood Council and neighbors are now engaging with the youth to look for funding sources and realize this goal. “The physical magnification of project was unbelievable to watch,” Professor Maria McKenna said. “They discovered their capacity to engage and inspire others, and know it’s safe to talk about what needs changing.”
The third team was recruited by a Northwest Neighborhood resident. That team determined that they wanted to see a mural in their neighborhood and plan a talent show planned by and featuring youth. Their plan is still in process.
They, along with the Robinson Community Learning Center youth, were recently honored during an NRC Youth Neighborhood Leadership Summit at the Civil Rights Heritage Center where selected framed photographs taken by the Northwest Neighborhood youth were prominently displayed. It was a day full of interaction and inspiration, fun and food.
Another important feature of the EYEN program is its emphasis on post-secondary education. Students who continue studies beyond high school can have a long-term positive impact on the community.
What happens next?
Some of the youth shared that they would like to see a youth leadership group in the community – and the EYEN program listened! The next step for the EYEN youth was an opportunity to participate in leadership development sessions starting in Fall 2013, to prepare them to form the first Neighborhood Youth Leadership Council. EYEN continues to explore opportunity for civic engagement and provides a voice that has been missing from the discussion surrounding neighborhood and community development.