The Tolson Center is a local organization that helps children with education and learning, as well as promotes cultural diversity, inclusion and equity for all. The South Central (SC) Tolson Neighborhood is the surrounding residential area and is an important resource within Elkhart. The city is dedicated to highlighting the neighborhood’s assets while empowering residents. Working with community partner Daniela Panetta, Manager of Community Building & Engagement from Lacasa, inc., interns were tasked with analyzing survey data based on the assets residents identified in their neighborhood area.
The goal of this project was to provide residents of the SC Tolson Neighborhood with knowledge of available resources near their homes. By understanding what already exists in their neighborhood, they were better able to take advantage of those assets in the future. This project also wanted to ensure that residents’ voices were valued in the community development process. It was important that this project worked from a civil service perspective, working “with” the residents and not just completing work “for” them.
Lauren Walker, rising senior at the University of Notre Dame, Miguel Sanchez, second year at the Ivy Tech Community College, and Kylie Taylor, rising senior at Elkhart High School also attending Ivy Tech, were the three CCI summer interns who worked on the Tolson Neighborhood Project.
Interns worked directly from the survey responses the residents provided as well as talked and met with local community leaders including Clayton Brown, President of the Tolson Center, Damond Smart and Kendall McGee, Co-founders of The Village Community Center, and Rod Roberson, Mayor of Elkhart.
Based on these interactions, interns further understood how connecting resources and networks, within and throughout the community, provides benefits to local residents. To promote awareness and connectivity of these resources, interns visualized the asset information they had collected. This was showcased through an asset based map, brochures, and posters that interns presented to residents at a community cookout.