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WSU’s campaign to strengthen neighborhoods near campus draws grant support

The Kansas Health Foundation has awarded $250,000 to the project

Residents of Fairmount neighborhood gather for a recent social and informational get-together.
Residents of Fairmount neighborhood gather for a recent social and informational get-together.

The Kansas Health Foundation is giving crucial support to Wichita State University’s efforts to improve safety and quality of life in the neighborhoods surrounding it, starting with the area south of campus known as the Fairmount neighborhood.

The foundation in May awarded the WSU Hugo Wall School of Public Affairs and the WSU Foundation a grant of $250,000 as part of its Community Engagement Initiative, which seeks to help Kansas residents develop plans to improve their communities. The Hugo Wall School is part of the Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

WSU President John Bardo launched what he called the “Enough is Enough” task force last December to try to create safe, economically vibrant neighborhoods around campus. That action came after a brutal assault in Fairmount Park in November resulted in the death of Leticia Davis, a mother of four. The Hugo Wall School joined with several partners, including the Fairmount Neighborhood Association, to submit the grant application on behalf of the Shocker Neighborhood Coalition.

“The grant will give us the resources we need to really think about how we can support the neighborhood, eliminate barriers and help spark some energy back into the community,” says Misty Bruckner, director of the Hugo Wall School’s Public Policy and Management Center.

"I can't tell you how satisfying it is to all of us to see the attention that is being placed on the Fairmount neighborhood."

- Darryl Carrington, president, Fairmount Neighborhood Association

The intent of the grant is to help citizens create better communities, says Jeff Willett, vice president for programs and advocacy for the Kansas Health Foundation.

“It’s clear that Wichita State is committed to engaging and empowering residents of the Fairmount neighborhood to identify their vision for a healthy community and to achieve that vision,” Willett says.

The Shocker Neighborhood Coalition’s first step will be to hire a project assistant to take charge of day-to-day activities, including setting up meetings with Fairmount neighborhood residents to learn what improvements they want to make.

Although the grant covers the Fairmount neighborhood, the coalition hopes the model it develops can be applied to other neighborhoods surrounding the campus, Bruckner says.

She hopes WSU students and faculty will participate in the process. “This is a real-world practicum right next to campus, offering an environment where applied learning can take place for a variety of disciplines.”

Bruckner notes that the coalition will build on work the Fairmount Neighborhood Association already is doing. Darryl Carrington, association president, said the organization was excited to learn more about the grant at a recent coalition meeting.

"I can't tell you how satisfying it is to all of us to see the attention that is being placed on the Fairmount neighborhood," he says.