In Greenville, S.C., a university, a children's hospital, a school district and a nonprofit are working together to bridge community initiatives with university assets. The result of their collaboration is Northwest Crescent Center, a multi-service neighborhood center housed in a former elementary school.
As part of its efforts to strengthen Furman University's longstanding commitment to service and community, and to engage students in service learning, Furman worked with the Greenville Hospital System Children's Hospital, the School District of Greenville County and United Way of Greenville County's "Success by 6" initiative to create the center.
Future of Greenville and Furman University Linked Together
"The future of Furman and Greenville are happily yoked together; they are in harness," said David Shi, Furman University's president. " In the past 25 years, Greenville has developed a national reputation for its entrepreneurial energy, civic pride, international flavor and can-do spirit. We want Furman to enrich and benefit from those qualities, and in the process to help enhance the welfare of the entire community."
From the beginning, the center has been a catalyst for change and growth, beginning a process of both neighborhood improvement and human development. The decision to preserve an old elementary school and turn it into a neighborhood asset has had an important economic effect on property values and home ownership in the surrounding neighborhoods. The additions of newly planted maple trees, a new parking lot, fresh paint in- and outside of buildings, new signage, and other efforts have improved the look and feel of the center. Wooden flower and vegetable garden beds, as well as park benches now flank main entrances and classrooms. In the main building, a large mural of an English teagarden scene was added to greet visitors, parents and students, changing a sterile school environment into warm and inviting place. The center has been transformed from an antiquated, old building into a warm, inviting learning oasis.
Connecting Community Partners at Northwest Crescent Center
In addition to physical improvements, the heart of the center brings together a mix of established community programs and partners.
With extensive community input and coordinated planning, committees comprised of neighborhood residents, leaders and students helped develop a mix of high quality education and agency programs tailored to the needs and lives of people living in the surrounding neighborhoods. These community volunteers led the preservation and improvement of the former building. Instead of lapsing into dereliction or being demolished, efforts to beautify the outside physical appearance and expand public services have been tremendously successful as measured by increased percentages of children testing ready for first grade, increasing numbers of adults achieving a GED or learning English, the provision of needed medical services, as well as the high use by residents of various agency services housed at the center.
Susan L. McConnell
Associate Director, Higher Education