Students look to revitalize neighborhoods

A Fresno resident walks past shards of glass in an empty lot across the
Fresno State campus. The area near Shaw and Barton Avenues is being
considered for revitalization by Associated Student, Inc., Greek community,
both Fresno and University Police Department among other organizations.
Esteban Cortez / The Collegian

Crime in neighborhoods around campus has sparked the development of a coalition to clean up and improve neighborhoods in the vicinity.

Revitalization efforts have risen before, but this year Fresno State students, Fresno City Council member Larry Westerland, and both Fresno and University police have joined the cause.

Student participation began through Facebook. The social media site has become the meeting place for students who wish to improve El Dorado Park, Sierra Madre and other neighborhoods near campus.

The Facebook account that has ignited this collaboration is “Revitalize the Fresno State Community,” which has currently accumulated more than 1,000 members.

The decision to revitalize the community was brought forth due to the high demand from students who contacted Associated Students, Inc. to voice their concerns.

“There was so much support on the social media sites that we thought if there is much involvement over the summer, this is definitely something we want to jump on and help students do,” ASI President Selena Farnesi said.

ASI is expecting a large numbers of students to participate in the revitalization efforts.

Several events have been planned to help students get informed, participate and get involved in the improvement of neighborhoods such as El Dorado located west of campus and Sierra Madre area one block south of campus.

ASI has hired a full time employee, Lauren Smoot, to help lead revitalization efforts. Smoot is a former Fresno State student and ASI member.

“The university has actively been pursuing work with the community,” director of student involvement at Fresno State Sally Ramage said.

Students have now joined the movement.

“We have noticed and students have noticed that there is an issue in the community that needs to be addressed, that’s the issue of revitalizing the area around Fresno,” Fernesi said.

The revitalization of these neighborhoods has not been novel news to University Police. This is not new, “in police work, this is called community base policing,” University Police Department Lieutenant, Jim Watson said.

While Fresno Police and University Police have concentrated on patrolling the neighborhoods, reaching out to businesses and citizens to improve neighboring communities, this new effort will focus primarily on student-community involvement.

“In talking with administrators we have heard that this is an issue that gets brought up and then dropped [continuously].” Farnesi said.

Fresno State “has all kinds of standing committees that look at all kinds of issues and make decisions for the campus,” Farnesi added.

To address inconsistency, ASI is hoping Fresno State will adopt a new committee “into it’s regular cycle of standing committees” that will guarantee long-term revitalization efforts, Farnesi added.

Revitalization efforts will focus on “networking and working with University Police Department, Fresno Police department, neighborhood watch groups and city counsel,” Smoot said.

ASI will focus on “reaching out to [these groups], and letting them know our concerns, letting them give us feedback on ways that we can make a difference,” Smoot added.

To increase community relations and involvement, these collaborating groups are organizing events, such as Day for Kids on Sep. 17, Clean Up Days and other ongoing meetings and events.

The Greek community will also be an active participant in the revitalization of neighboring communities.

“We plan to contribute in anyway that we can. Hosting fundraisers. Providing volunteer hours is more likely how we will contribute most,” said Pi Kappa Alpha president Michael Eberhard, said.

Greek organizations are scheduled to clean up surrounding neighborhoods Sept. 11. Other Fresno State Students are asked to participate on Oct. 2.

“Personally, my main goal is to raise awareness and educate students on how to protect themselves and what they can do to help with the revitalization movement,” Eberhard said.

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