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C3 Program celebrates first anniversary

By : Cait Anastis

Binghamton University students working with the C3 program help create a study room for students in the fifth through eighth grades to use in downtown Binghamton. In addition to cleaning up and painting the space, students collected money to purchase need
Residents of Binghamton City Council’s seventh and ninth districts have become a guiding force in a University program aimed at improving the quality of life in their neighborhoods.

In its first year, the Center City Coordination (C3) Program has built partnerships, served as a resource and helped improve interaction between the community and the University, but its greatest success has been earning the trust and cooperation of the residents they seek to serve, said Karen Wenzel, the program’s coordinator.

“I think the biggest success is that we now actually have residents coming to us, asking us for help and coming into the center,” Wenzel said. “It took us quite a while to build up that trust.”

The program was created with a three-year, $400,000 Community Outreach Partnership Centers Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Dev-elopment. C3 is unique because it does not operate programs to help improve the quality of life in the community. Instead, it provides support to community members to identify their own needs and find solutions to issues in the com-munity, said Allison Alden, director of the School of Education and Human Development’s Division of Professional Development and Research.

Participation by area residents is key, Alden said.

“We are resident based,” she said. “We did not walk in and set agendas. We’re very centered on the living and working experiences of people in downtown Binghamton.”

Members of the community are meeting and talking about what is needed most. Then, with support from C3, they are finding ways to provide for those needs. Six task teams were formed to focus on different areas: community organization and development; education; health and well being; workforce development; housing; and research. Each task team includes representatives from residential areas, the business community and city government.

“They look at the needs of the com-munity and focus on those needs,” Alden said.

The goal is not to duplicate existing programs. Instead, the C3 program focuses on coordinating existing services and expan-ding outreach and referral capabilities.

“We only help establish programs when no one in the community provides them,” she said. “The wonderful strength about us is that we have dozens of partners and dozens of community participants.”

Partnerships have been formed with a number of government and community agencies including the Binghamton Housing Authority, the Boys and Girls Club, Broome County Gang Prevention, the Carlisle Tenant Association, the Mental Health Association of the Southern Tier, Planned Parenthood, the United Way, the Broome County Urban League and the YWCA.

The HUD grant is specifically targeted for universities to build an infrastructure that will allow universities and communities to interact more meaningfully, Alden said. An additional benefit of the grant is that it helps make the case for funding when community groups seek other grants. Alden estimates that by showing the collaborations already taking place in the area, about $5 million in addi-tional funding has been brought into the community.

C3 has also provided educational and community service opportunities for Binghamton University students from a number of different programs. Decker School of Nursing students are working with C3 and the Broome County Health Department on data analysis of a community assessment for future funding needs; Betsy Kelchner, assistant professor of social work, and students in her research class worked with the Broome County Office for Aging on a service learning project to design, conduct and analyze results of a needs assessment for seniors; and SEHD students have worked with children at the Urban League and with students with special needs in the Binghamton School District.

“We get phenomenal students who want to work with C3,” Wenzel said. “We now have a lot of the faculty starting to send students here. They are starting to incorporate us into their curriculum.”
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Last Updated: 10/14/08