Students Gain Community Skills This Summer

Sociology 319, a summer course called Practicing Empowerment, facilitated Manhattan College students the opportunity to help Bronx residents who are struggling with deteriorating housing conditions for the third year in a row.

Sociology 319, a summer course called Practicing Empowerment facilitated Manhattan College students the opportunity to help Bronx residents who are struggling with deteriorating housing conditions for the third year in a row.

"There is no better way to learn about community organizing than by doing it," said Margaret Groarke, Ph.D., associate professor of government.

The class focuses on community organizing, and students were involved in this process.
Working with organizers from the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, students knocked on doors to find out about the conditions tenants were living in, and invited them to organize into tenant associations to advocate for repairs and better service. The Northwest Bronx Coalition, founded in 1974, has a tradition of broad-based, membership driven, social justice community organizing, and a history of working on housing issues in particular.

Students read about the strategies community organizers have developed and campaigns in which the Coalition and others have engaged. They saw and discussed some documentary films about organizing work, and role-played to practice for their work in the neighborhood.

This is the third time Practicing Empowerment students have organized with the Northwest Bronx Coalition.

"Students get a chance to see how people working together can make a difference; the Coalition gets assistance in its organizing efforts, and people in the Bronx get some help in their efforts to make their apartment buildings and the Bronx a better place, and to struggle for justice," said Groarke.