TCU launches groundbreaking initiative to build community
For release: Jan. 11, 2010
Texas Christian University is launching an innovative pilot program, in partnership with Community Renewal International, that could one day train university students on many campuses how to build safe and caring communities across the nation.
“We want students to have more than an academic experience. We want them to have a sense of ownership in the community,’ said Daniel Terry, assistant director of the TCU Leadership Center and coordinator of the on-campus initiative.
“We want to develop a consciousness of caring. The ultimate intent is for students to take this model wherever they go when they leave us.”
With nearly 8,700 students, the campus in Fort Worth, Texas, plans to roll out We Care TCU to encourage and actively promote intentional acts of caring. Future plans call for development of a RenewalCorps team of students formally trained in the CRI model and construction of a Friendship House near the campus.
“In college, people can go to class and never meet their neighbors on their hall. That’s sad. We want to have a sense of community,” said Martin Bee, a junior active in planning the school’s community renewal activities. He and a group of about 16 students and staff attended a CRI workshop in Shreveport in November.
Numerous colleges and universities have partnered with CRI through the years in various ways. For example: Students from the University of Texas created designs for the Center for Community Renewal and students from Louisiana Tech drew up plans for an international Friendship House. Student groups from Centenary College, LSU-Shreveport, the University of Missouri and other schools have worked on volunteer service projects. And students from Hardin-Simmons University and McMurry University in Abilene, Texas, have gone through intensive CRI workshops.
The partnership with TCU takes student involvement with CRI to a new level.
“We will be creative and apply this to a campus community that has unique dynamics with people constantly coming and going,” Terry said. “We will be the training ground. We are in a position to replicate the model on a large scale.”
Students say the need for campus renewal is just as real as the need for community renewal.
“People often don’t get out of their own little circle. We want to be good global citizens and to do that we have to know each other better,” said senior Heather Santi.
Sophomore Dezi Bennett was eager to attend the CRI workshop in Shreveport.
“I love learning and I want to learn new and innovative ways of involving each other in our community. We have to know and trust each other,” she said.
TCU planners have developed a model that will be implemented in three phases:
2010: Roll out We Care TCU, a campus-wide movement that will encourage people to commit to building our common capacity to care for one another.
2011: Organize a RenewalCorps of students who have been trained in the CRI model of community transformation. They will serve as trainers for other college students from around the country at Re:NEW, a one-week training experience that includes immersion in the Community Renewal curriculum and exposure to the model in action.
2012: Build a Friendship House near campus to serve the needs of underserved children and their families, benefitting them and providing educational enrichment opportunities for students.
Rachel Siron, assistant director of housing and residence life, said bringing Community Renewal to campus benefits students and the university, as well as the surrounding community.
“The more connected you feel to a community, the more likely you are to want to be a part of that community. It’s certainly good for us to have a university they care about,” she said.
“We’re preparing them for a global community and we want them to be strong builders of relationships in our society.”
Hall director Christy Lehew said the November visit to Shreveport strengthened the commitment to build a campus-wide community renewal model.
“Students are developing habits now that will carry forward and I wanted to see what we could do on our campus to help prepare them,” she said. “Community renewal is a life skill and a university is the perfect place to learn it.”
Community Renewal International is a nonprofit effort to restore safe and healthy communities through caring relationships. Founded in 1994, Community Renewal reaches at-risk youth through Friendship Houses built in impoverished neighborhoods, strengthens education through the Adult Renewal Academy, partners with The Fuller Center for Housing and connects caring partners who turn their neighborhoods into safe havens of friendship and support.
Contact: David Westerfield, director of communications