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How I became a Community Organizer

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| WMU

Hey Broncos!

Never have I ever thought I would be so sad for a class to end. This summer, I took a social work class called “community organizing”. Each of us in the class was paired with another student and assigned to a street in Kalamazoo to work with for seven weeks in partnership with a non-profit organization called Building Blocks. Each street was allocated $4200 of grant money for exterior home improvement projects.

The project was nerve racking at first, because there is nothing fun about knocking on doors of people you don’t know on a street you have never been to. That was phase one, the door-knocking. We guessed that less than 10 households would chose to participate in our summer Building Blocks project, but we were wrong—five interested families became 10, which became 19, which eventually became 14 committed households. My partner Kelsey and I held four “information” meetings in the Neighborhood Association to provide information to residents. 13 households applied for our grant money to do projects, and one resident, the 14th, signed up to simply help.

For seven weeks, we spent our entire weekends on the street, building relationships with residents, encouraging them to get to know each other, learning to build fences, decks, and more. We repaired driveways and I even learned how to cut down a tree!

The residents on our street went from complete strangers to each other and to us to a close-knit community. My professor asked us in class last week “when does a collection of people become a community?” and I immediately answered, “On my street, last weekend”. It was such an amazing experience to completely beautification projects to the street and get to know the residents. We became so close with our residents that we plan on going back every week to visit everyone. My professor calls my street “the rainbow of Kalamazoo” and I agree completely.

It was by far the best class I have ever taken and I am sad that it is over. If you are reading this and you are a Bronco, I recommend taking Community Organizing through the school of Social Work! Good luck on Summer I finals!

It’s a great day to be a Bronco,
Erin

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