The Problem

The soccer pitch above was established because “When we invest in recreational spaces for our children, it is more than designating a play space; we energize entire communities and bring neighbors together for positive and healthy social experiences. ”

My project is based on the need for spaces where neighbors share positive experiences, particularly in todays era of school choice that erodes geographic community-

My project was inspired by Betinna Love, who said “it takes a village” to protect the potential of children. Love’s village was the army of community members that aided her in basketball. Villages, however, are being eroded.  Schools have traditionally served as important social glue in communities. As more students go to school outside of their communities, opportunities for community building are in jeopardy. So my research is on grassroots organizations that aim to build community cohesion and power.

Organizations, in other words, that are trying to offer villages to their community’s children.

In New York, according to The Research Alliance for New York City Schools, the older student get, the farther (on average) they travel from their homes to get to school. There are over 750 educational options, like magnet and Gifted & Talented programs, dual language schools, charter schools, exam-based specialized high schools, and more that are part of the citywide high school choice process. These are often not within a student’s neighborhood district, and without the gel of a school to provide shared experiences to neighbors, places like community centers, appartment complexes, and tutoring programs have stepped up to build a new kind of village for the geographic community, regardless of where kids go to school.

My project focusses on the Bronx. Here, communities struggle with the challenges of school choice, Bloomburg’s take over of NYC schools (and subsequent lack of community control of their schools) as well as face an ever-shrinking amount of quality, affordable housing. These dual threats to geographic community cohesion have given rise to community centers and forums to empower residents toward becoming a “village”. The New Settlement Apartment complex offers educational programs and community services open to all area residents, and Bronx community vision works to educated the members about what is happening in their community and inform them about routes to change these circumstances. I focus on the Bronx in this project because their fight for space is literal, as school choice erodes cohesion and gentrification forces community members out.

Efforts for cohesions and power within bronx neighborhood communities have mission statements that encapsulate themes of Dewey and the organizers we studied after him. Bronx vision headlines their materials with: NOTHING ABOUT US, WITHOUT US, IS FOR US and New Settlement declares, in the spirit of Ella Baker and her belief the the extraordinary power of ordinary people, “we are grounded in our commitment to affordable housing and a thriving neighborhood, New Settlement Apartments collaborates with community residents and develops partnerships to create services and opportunities that celebrate the inherent dignity and potential of individuals and families”. 

Dewey says the most powerful site of democracy is the person to person dialog of the small, neighborhood community. While new educational choice options are not all good, or all bad, they are changing how we define community, how we involve ourselves in community, and creating new challenges for building cohesion and power. We have learned this semester to start with what the people know. My research highlights to power of the knowledge that takes a village to protect children’s potential. My research is about the powerful of efforts to build cohesive villages in the Bronx despite the changing face of urban schooling.