The N. 36th Street Stretch
This research covers the area between N. 36th Street and N. 33rd Street, bound by W. Lisbon Avenue and W. Brown Avenue. This project takes a pensive look at the area's rich history of community involvement and seeks to apply the practices of past activism toward community involvement strategies that can be implemented in the future. The focus is on youth support programs that are run in the general area, with Westside Academy II as the starting point. The student and staff demographics of the school were analyzed as well as the personal support structure and programs offered there. From there, other organizations in the community, including Our Next Generation and Express Yourself Milwaukee, were reached out to, examining the programs they offer, how they might overlap with Westside's curriculum, and how they might work together in the future. From there, specific case studies in which these community programs were implemented were analyzed. Essentially, the memory of the past community involvement showing through in current youth outreach programs in the neighborhood is being looked at. The past is being analyzed and perceived in the present with the hope of applying it to the future. What was found was a past centered on strength in faith and youth education. Looking toward the future, the goal is to overlap programs and spaces that help facilitate a future based on community involvement and neighborhood togetherness.
Reverend Monsignor Blackwell established a beginning of neighborhood unity and community togetherness in 1900. His voice was instrumental in instigating construction of St. Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic Church and then advocating for its vast program based in community outreach and unity. The program at St. Thomas Aquinas was split between parish and community gatherings and the St. Thomas Aquinas Preparatory School. Students there received one on one instruction and mentorship through parish and community volunteers and were offered various after school activities to facilitate personal and academic growth. This rich history of community involvement and unity through youth support programs is one that carries over into current community life. Youth in the present N. 36th Street neighborhood receive academic and personal support and encouragement through a variety of independent programs.
Youth involvement in art throughout the community has led to positive art installations and beautification efforts in the surrounding area. Express Yourself Milwaukee, located on W. Lisbon Ave, is an organization that urges youth to get involved in art and music as a creative and beautiful outlet for stress and as a way to get involved in their community. An effort to beautify the area led to EYM championing youth efforts to create a pop-up art gallery along W. Lisbon Avenue where youth incorporate some of their culture and artistic skills to create an urban community garden area and art installation piece. Expression through art also resulted in a community-wide movement as youth, directed by Our Next Generation, created a performance space next to Amaranth Bakery & Café complete with self-designed Peace Posts. The idea behind the Peace Posts is to dig a hole, plant a dream, and watch it grow. Students at Our Next Generation decorate the posts with hand designed, glazed tiles made with supervision by a local artist. These projects effectively involve community leaders and members as supervisors, idea makers, and volunteers who all work with the local youth population to create something they all can be proud of. Artistic pride in one’s community is but one facet of youth involvement.
Westside Academy II is a major player in youth education in this neighborhood and influences youth at a young age. Primarily a middle and elementary school, the institution provides dedicated staff and a safe environment to foster educational growth in their students. They also offer an after school activity/organization called the Community Learning Center where students can receive help with homework and have access to free gym time and technology after school hours. The CLC sets up a positive learning environment dedicated to supporting youth academic growth. The CLC used to be a joint venture by Westside and Our Next Generation until it lost funding, and the two programs split. Our Next Generation also works with students after school, often students who do not attend Westside Academy or their overflow. They provide academic help through study sessions and homework assistance and also seek to establish a personal connection with their students through mentoring. Our Next Generation runs three different programs to target specific age sets with an after school curriculum designed specifically for those students. Founder Charles Drake states, “In order for children to begin to think of a different future for themselves, they need to see different possibilities,” and so Our Next Generation developed its Outbound Learning program where they bus students out of the area to visit the UWM campus and Manpower Inc. where students receive one-on-one interaction with college students, professors, and working professionals. Student to student interaction based on the UWM campus provides a sort of mentorship that young students can relate to, one that is different than the mentorship of an adult.
This sort of interaction creates an, “assimilation of feelings, attitudes, and values that can plant seeds in these young students minds of where they want to be and where we hope they can be in the future” says Drake. The Outbound Learning program is about exposure and broadening a young student's perspective of the world and encouraging a future of possibilities.
In analyzing the different facets of youth involvement in the community and, in turn, community involvement in youth, reference sources were used to try to better understand the complex set of relationships that were seen. Erving Goffman's Preservation of Self in Everyday Life addresses issues of interaction and seeks to explain the resulting relationships. Goffman believed that all participants in social interactions are engaged in certain practices to avoid being embarrassed or embarrassing others. He believed that when an individual comes in contact with other people, that individual will attempt to control or guide the impression that others might make of him by changing or fixing his or her setting, appearance, and manner. This led to Goffman's dramaturgical analysis. Goffman saw a connection between the kinds of acts that people put on in their daily life and theatrical performances. In dramaturgical sociology it is argued that the elements of human interactions are dependent upon time, place, and audience. In other words, to Goffman, the self is a sense of who one is, a dramatic effect emerging from the immediate scene being presented. Goffman forms a theatrical metaphor in defining the method in which one human being presents itself to another based on cultural values, norms, and expectations.
Essentially, there is a relationship between performance and reality. The difference between a person interacting in reality as opposed to on a stage lies in that person’s ability to choose the setting, costume, dialogue, and outcome. The idea of dramatized interaction between individuals can be related to this project in the way the neighborhood youth present themselves to the community and in the way the community, in turn, receives them.
If Goffman's dramaturgical analysis were to be applied to this research, one would be able to infer that the setting/stage is the neighborhood, and the actors, the residents. How they interact with one another is governed by a complex set of social formalities and expectations. This interaction establishes a relationship between the actors. This research is mainly focused on the interaction and resulting relationship between some of the youngest players on this stage and the adults leading the support programs that govern interaction between the two. It could be argued that the relationship between the two is a result of a fixed set of circumstances outlined by interaction through programs like Our Next Generation, Community Learning Center, and Express Yourself Milwaukee. Each of these programs lays out a specific set of circumstances and focused settings. It is then up to the actors, program leaders and youth participants, to establish a relationship through interaction. This relationship is dictated by costume, mannerisms, body language, actions, dialogue, and setting.
Taking Goffman's research into account, it was found that interaction between the programs and their intended youth recipients facilitates relationships between students and adult role models and program leaders. Our Next Generation provides a safe setting in which young students can interact with adult volunteers to complete homework and set personal goals for the future. Express Yourself Milwaukee establishes a set of circumstances and situations designed to encourage youth volunteers to participate in beautification and take pride in their surrounding community. This program facilitates a set of social interactions between youth participants and physical interactions with their neighborhood environment. The Community Learning Center after school program at Westside Academy allows students to create a relationship with teachers and mentors while participating in activities in a setting that encourages academic achievement. Personal and academic goals are set for youth participants in all of these programs, encouraging them to become active members of their communities, equipped with knowledge and the personal skills to do so. These programs, the interaction facilitated therein, and the relationships established encourage future involvement in the neighborhood and represent an emotional investment in the community. The area acts as a stage, where future community leaders act out relationships and interactions that set them up for future involvement and responsibility in their community.
The goal, then, is to analyze what sort of interactions took place in the past that facilitated such intense community and youth involvement and apply that background to the present. Where do these interactions lie now, and who are the players? How do they seek to influence each other and how might one integrate the resulting relationships into a brighter future for this community’s youth?
To achieve the end result, in-person interviews, maps, census data, statistical data, and historical records were used to gather information. Representatives of Westside Academy II, Our Next Generation, and Amaranth Bakery and Cafe were visited and talked to. Westside is a leader in youth development and Our Next Generation acts as a mentor for youth in the community. The Sanborn maps were analyzed to track commercial and residential development in the area over time. 1940 census data revealed the area's demographic ancestry and brought to light issues of industrialization and migration. The Golden Jubilee Book of Reverend Monsignor Edward Blackwell revealed the neighborhood's history in community involvement and unity and also established the beginning of a legacy of youth support and encouragement in the area. Charles Drake, founder of Our Next Generation, spoke of the different programs that the organization sponsors that are intended to provide personal and academic support. Interviews with Alison, a fourth grade teacher at Westside Academy II, provided information on programs run at the school and the student demographic.
This research analyzes programs and organizations in the community that support youth development academically and personally. The study looks at the future of the community by analyzing the history of community involvement and unity. It relates to the community through an assessment of youth involvement and support by the neighborhood. The study can be related to design by analyzing open space in the neighborhood and contemplating its potential for future development.
The future goal is to physically link all three assets in this area and create a ‘youth territory’ that is safe, clean, monitored, and dedicated to recreation. The idea behind this physical connection is to further empower current organizations and programs by taking a page from St. Thomas Aquinas's history and uniting them. A united front against youth corruption could further champion positive growth and development in the area by shaping and supporting its future residents and leaders. The physical link might materialize in the form of a bike or walking path. St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church could be repurposed and renovated to be used as a destination point and community center. The proposal involves using the open space in front of the church along N. 36th Street to act as a playground and open social gathering and recreation space connected to Westside Academy, Our Next Generation, and Express Yourself Milwaukee. The project would involve beautification of sidewalks and community effort to clean and moderate the space. Ideally, youth in the community would take a particular interest in the project and use art to make the recreation space their own and something to take pride in. The goal of this project is to highlight current assets and take advantage of their strengths by uniting them into an organized front against community degradation. The ultimate goal is to encourage positive development in the neighborhood and create a physical connection between important youth development assets that the community, and more importantly, the youth can take pride in.