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The Lindy Center: UConnect Launches at the Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships By Gina Gendusa, MS, Associate Director, UConnect, Lindy for Civic Engagement

UConnect is a program born out of a spirit of true collaboration. UConnect is a program of the Lindy Center for Civic Engagement created in partnership with the College of Arts and Sciences providing Information, Referral and Follow-up (IRF) services to the local community. Housed at Drexel’s Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships at 3509 Spring Garden St., UConnect pairs trained volunteers, called Navigators, with community members in need of support connecting to local programs, services, and other resources and opportunities that can help move their life forward. In addition to providing IRF services, our volunteer Navigators advocate for our neighbors, learning along the way about the injustices that so many face. This two-pronged approach provides for a welcoming space where everyone gives, receives and learns from each other.

Why create UConnect in the first place? In the Promise Zone neighborhoods in and around Drexel University, the poverty rate is over 50%, a devastating statistic that is nearly twice an already overwhelming poverty rate of 26% across Philadelphia. Yet throughout the city, there are hundreds of programs, agencies, and organizations that exist to help support those who are living in poverty. Our neighbors living in the communities surrounding the University too often struggle to connect with these resources and opportunities that would help improve their lives, many of which are literally in their own backyards.

At the same time, in the same Promise Zone neighborhoods, Drexel students – committed and talented – are looking to engage even more fully in their community. They want to both support their neighbors and better understand their struggles and aspirations. Through this experience, both our volunteers and those receiving services learn the valuable lesson that we are not so different after all.

Faculty can create their own community-based learning course that incorporates student engagement at UConnect as a part of their coursework. The learning that happens at UConnect has the potential to create a lasting impact on both the students and the community members. Inspiring and educational, this experience brings students face the face with social injustices plaguing their neighbors in the surrounding community. By creating community-based learning courses in partnership with UConnect, faculty can ensure more students have the chance to participate in this innovative experience.