Build It, which dates to 2005 and is the University of Richmond's neighborhood-based civic-engagement program, brings the University's resources and volunteers together with residents and organizations in Northside Richmond to work toward neighborhood revitalization and community development.
Taking a holistic approach, Build It develops long-term partnerships with public schools and nonprofit organizations to address a variety of issues, including education, health care, crime, unemployment and under-employment, affordable housing and homelessness, and urban blight.
Build It focuses on the Highland Park neighborhood and its environs.
Developed in the 1890s at the end of a trolley line, Highland Park became one of Richmond's first suburbs and was characterized by large houses and a vibrant business community. The city annexed Highland Park in 1914.
The neighborhood began to decline in the late 1940's, due in part to white flight and local, state, and federal policies that supported the concentration of poverty in Richmond's northeast quadrant. In recent years, however, the city government, residents, and nonprofits have been working to revitalize Highland Park.
Build It volunteers commit to serve for a minimum of one hour a week for a semester in Highland Park or another Northside neighborhood. Volunteers work in tandem with community partners to effect positive change.
Build It participants greatly enrich their collegiate experiences by gaining firsthand exposure to many pressing social issues. Students studying subjects such as sociology, education, psychology, biology, chemistry, English literature, political science, leadership studies, gender studies, religion, and music, to name just a few, make connections between their academics and their volunteer experiences.
Build It provides orientations and educational programming every semester to give students context for the experiences they are having in the community.
The Action Group comprises a team of student leaders who work closely with Bonner Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) community initiatives and program manager Cassie Price and community initiatives coordinator Garrett Stern to coordinate Build It.
Action Group members:
- Serve on the Action Group for at least one academic year
- Volunteer weekly with a community partner
- Act as liaisons between community partners and student volunteers
- Meet monthly with Cassie Price and Garrett Stern to give updates on their sites
- Assist with recruitment and orientation of volunteers
- Assist in the planning and promotion of Build It educational programs and events
- Attend four discussion/reflection dinners on social issues, two each semester
2016-17 Action Group members
- Noah Clarke, '18, liaison to Youth Life Foundation, Highland Park Northminster Learning Center (spring semester only)
- Dan Cunn, '17, liaison to Northside Family YMCA
- T.J. Benedict, '17, liaison to Youth Life Foundation, Remix Teen Learning Center
- Will Stith, '18, liaison to Youth Life Foundation, Delmont Learning Center (fall semester only)
- Tyler Montoya, '18, liaison to Northside Family YMCA (spring semester only)
- Liz Nigro '17, liaison to Overby-Sheppard Elementary School
- Kobie Crosley, '18, liaison to Goodwill Northside Employment Center (fall semester only)
Build It succeeds because of the strengths of the long-term relationships cultivated between University of Richmond volunteers and community partners, including public schools and nonprofit organizations in Northside Richmond.
Build It participants commit to:
- Volunteering for a minimum of one hour a week for at least one semester, although many volunteer for multiple semesters
- Serving on a consistent, regular basis throughout the semester
- Observing community-partner guidelines, including dress codes
- Maintaining mutual respect with community partners and their clients
Although many students participate in Build It out of a desire to volunteer, some participate in Build It by enrolling in a community-based learning course.
Build It partner sites provide ideal placements for students studying a variety of disciplines, including literature, science, the arts, political science, leadership studies, sociology, psychology, religion, and education, to name a few. Some community-based learning students volunteer at Build It sites on a weekly basis, while others undertake projects or design and implement teaching modules with Build It partners. For more information, see past CBL courses that have collaborated with the Build It program.
The following CBL courses utilized Build It community partners in Fall 2016:
|Course Number||Course Name||Faculty|
|ACCT 312||Federal Taxation||Raymond Slaughter|
|CLSC 201||The Classical Elements of the English Language||Dean Simpson|
|LDST 205||Justice and Civil Society||Julian Hayter|
|LDST 205||Justice and Civil Society||Thad Williamson|
|LDST 368||Leadership on Stage and Screen||Kristin Bezio|
|LLC 140||How to Write Everything||Nuray Grove|
|MUS 220||Global Repertoires||Andy McGraw|
|SSIR||Global Health||Ben Mayes|
The following CBL courses utilized Build It community partners in Spring 2016:
|Course Number||Course Name||Faculty|
|ANTH / PLSC 379||Bringing Human Rights Home||Jennifer Erkulwater and Jan French|
|EDUC 220||Education in America||Mavis Brown|
|ENG 201||Children's Literature||Libby Gruner|
|FYS 100||Democracy in Education||Nathan Snaza|
|IDST 290||Disaster, Memory, and Popular Culture||Melissa Ooten|
|LDST 205||Justice and Civil Society||Kim Gower|
|LDST 205||Justice and Civil Society||Kerstin Soderlund|
|MLC 135||English Communication in Cultural Context||Deborah Westin|
|PSYC 311||Child Development||Karen Kochel|
|WGSS 201||WILL Colloquium||Melissa Ooten and Holly Blake|
Build It thrives on long-term, committed, enthusiastic collaboration with individuals and organizations working in Richmond's Northside communities. The Bonner Center for Civic Engagement is grateful for its ongoing Build It partnerships with the following schools and nonprofit organizations:
- Goodwill Northside Community Employment Center
- Henderson Middle School
- Highland Park Senior Apartments
- Northside Family YMCA
- Overby-Sheppard Elementary School
- VCU Health Systems Childcare at Northside
- Youth Life Foundation of Richmond Delmont Learning Center
- Youth Life Foundation of Richmond Highland Park Northminster Learning Center
Contact Cassie Price, Build It program manager for more information about Build It partnerships and volunteer opportunities.
Build It enables students from a variety of academic backgrounds to particpate in their community while testing their knowledge. Through internships, CBL classes, thesis research, and field research projects, UR students undertake academic research and projects informed by the Highland Park community and surrounding Northside Richmond neighborhoods. Student work is categorized below by CCE issue areas, which can be explored further on the Community Partner Map. These projects reflect the thoughts and words of UR students, not the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement.
Leonard, Grace, '12, Case Study: NGO Staff Implement Educational Goals in Northside Richmond. Completed for the Virginia Engage Journal, fall 2012.
Community gardening and food access
Vendegna, Carly, '10, Food Accessibility in Richmond, Virginia: A Case Study in the Neighborhood of Highland Park. Completed for the course, SOC 335: Feast and Famine: Ineqaulities in the Global Food System.
Health and science
Irons, Rand, '15, Allies for Health: The Highland Park and Church Hill Healthcare Action Plan. Completed for the Sophomore Scholars In Residence Global Health program, fall 2012.
Public policy, research, and advocacy
Leonard, Grace, '12, My Community, Their Community, Our Community: Musings on "Development." Completed for the Virginia Engage Journal, fall 2012.