As a senior at Hawken School, I took an Intensive course called Community Development and Urban Renewal. The Intensive was held at the Gries Center in University Circle, allowing us access to the amenities of the area such as Case Western Reserve University, University Hospitals and Wade Park. In addition, we were in close proximity to East Cleveland, Glenville and Fairfax – the three neighborhoods that served as our final projects.
Throughout the three-week course, my class explored the vital topics associated with Community Development and Urban Renewal – distinguishing characteristics of urban and rural areas; components of communities and neighborhoods; and the many factors that influence an area’s growth, prosperity and attraction. All these topics sparked eye-opening discussions about the urban/suburban divide, race, education, socioeconomic status, health and politics in Cleveland. We learned much about Cleveland’s past and present, many of us being surprised that it had actually once been a thriving city like that of New York or Chicago.
Much of our time was spent outside the classroom, allowing us to explore Cleveland up close and personal. Some highlights of our class were an overnight expedition to Ohio City to complete a visual essay, an introduction to the new additions and innovations in University Circle and Neighbor Circles. The Neighbor Circles, held in East Cleveland, Glenville, and Fairfax, allowed us to meet with residents and discuss their neighborhoods. We gained great insight from the residents as they told us of their history, likes and dislikes, issues and personal experiences in their neighborhoods that would enlighten us as well as aid us in our final project.
The final project put our knowledge to the test, as we were split in groups to explore one of the designated neighborhoods in depth and make a proposal outlining the biggest issues in our neighborhood and requesting a grant for the construction of institutions, establishments or programs we planned to install to address our neighborhood’s needs. In addition to the proposal, we made a formal presentation to our instructors and residents of our neighborhoods.
This Intensive proved to be my favorite course, as it served as both a great learning and bonding experience. I discovered so much about the social and economic aspects of Cleveland. Once having a shallow understanding of Cleveland, this course allowed me to gain a new perspective about the city. I have high hopes for Cleveland, and am eager to see what ideas people have to restore it to its former booming and lively status.
This article was written by Hawken student Chelsea Bonner. Read Hawken student Kathleen Graham's article on here.