TCU launches first university-based Community Renewal model
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For Release: Oct. 1, 2010
More than 500 university students found the rhythm of caring on the Texas Christian University campus in Fort Worth, Texas, as TCU launched a We Care initiative making it the first Community Renewal University in the nation.
Led by musicians in the world-renowned Drum Café group on the Campus Commons, students were each given a drum and taught in just a few minutes how a large group can be transformed into one community, when they play to the same beat. They were joined by students and representatives from several Northwest Louisiana universities who are also interested in building community on their campuses.
“This brought us together, feeling the rhythm, feeling the energy that comes when we are together. We are trying to promote and sustain a campus community where people know and care about each other,” said Daniel Terry, program director for Student Development Services and director of Community Renewal at TCU.
“We are encouraging people to invest in the wellbeing of each other. If everybody is on that bandwagon, the whole community will rise. This year is about the We Care team saturating the campus with that message.”
Hundreds of students have already signed We Care cards, pledging to reach out in caring ways to their fellow students. We Care buttons now adorn student backpacks and We Care decals are on residence hall doors.
The long-term vision is for TCU students to serve as trainers for other university students, as TCU becomes a model of renewal for university campuses nationwide. TCU also hopes to build a Friendship House near its campus to serve the needs of low-income families.
"Community Renewal has provided us with a framework that enables us to help students think beyond themselves. It enables us to create an environment that creates the student who will indeed be able to step out and make a difference," said Don Mills, vice chancellor for students affairs at TCU.
Shane Constable, an assistant hall director at TCU, was inspired by a trip he and other students made to see the CRI model in Shreveport. “We saw how it impacted the community there. It was amazing because of the sense of pride that each person took in their community. People were so joyful and so happy about what this initiative has done,” he said.
“We saw that and we want to have that here. We thought if we could implement this at TCU it would be great to have. This will help connect students from different walks of life, forming new bonds and relationships.
Students are going beyond random acts of kindness to a new level of intentional acts of caring. For example, students have baked cookies and taken them door-to-door on the hall. One innovative group of students served a quick breakfast to students when they got on the elevator.
Gibson Singer, a junior nursing major and resident assistant in one of the dorms, said a university is a natural place to learn about community renewal: “It really fits in a residence hall. We are caring intentionally, and doing it more often, and really getting to know our residents so that we can care for them better.
“My ultimate hope for Community Renewal is that TCU won’t just be a place for people to come and go to class, but that they will get to know each other and learn to really care for people. Then after they graduate, they can implement the Community Renewal model wherever they live. A residence hall is a perfect place to start learning that lifestyle.”
TCU’s goal of serving as a model for others started with the first drum beat. Attending the launch were representatives of Centenary College, Louisiana State University-Shreveport, Northwestern State University and Southern University-Shreveport, all located in Northwest Louisiana.
Steven Gruesbeck, director of service learning at NSU, attended along with five students. “I want to learn about the feasibility of replicating this at NSU. We are an integral part of the community and we want to provide valuable service to the community,” he said.
Student Hannah Tanksley, a senior journalism major, was deeply impressed by her visit to TCU.
“At NSU we are not united and this could bring us closer,” she said. “What they have done here is amazing. There is a great spirit here and I would love to see this at NSU.”
Tuesday Williams, director of career services at SUS, has seen the positive impact of Community Renewal in neighborhoods where she was raised.
“At Southern, we want to build that connectedness. We want students to know they have the tools inside them to truly build community. This is intentional learning and intentional doing,” she said.
Patty Trudell, executive director of CERT – the Consortium for Education, Research and Technology of North Louisiana, also attended and was inspired by the TCU launch.
“What TCU has done is create this climate of caring and the mechanism to make it happen. They have instilled in their students the belief that we can change the world. That’s how we really make change, by starting through these young people,” she said.
“We have colleges and universities in North Louisiana who also understand this is part of their mission and that’s exciting.”
Community Renewal International is a nonprofit effort to restore safe and healthy communities through caring relationships. Founded in 1994, Community Renewal reaches at-risk youth through Friendship Houses built in impoverished neighborhoods, strengthens education through the Adult Renewal Academy, partners with The Fuller Center for Housing and connects caring partners who turn their neighborhoods into safe havens of friendship and support.
Contact: David Westerfield, director of communications