|Youth lead a tour through San Francisco's Chinatown|
Back in 1991, Norman Fong, executive director of the Chinatown Community Development Center (which is celebrating its fifth year as a NeighborWorks network member), reached out
|Students clean the alleyways. (Photo|
by James Ng)
A few years later, Fong set up a meeting at the city’s department of public works bureau of street use and mapping to discuss the alleyways. Although the city had spent the previous several decades dodging the work of cleaning these alleys, the amazing progress of the students could not be ignored. The city commissioned its own master plan allowing the students an opportunity to expand their work and partner with the local government. Jointly, Chinatown CDC and the student volunteers worked to develop a master plan for the city’s entire network of 41 alleyways, describing the current state and the work needed to make them a place the community could use again. They went door to door visiting with local businesses and residents to make the case for their plan, and in 1998 the city adopted the guidelines authored by students.
|Murals now beautify many of the alleyways.|
Beyond their work creating clean and safe public spaces the youths have also started a small business that leads tours of the alleys.
Fong believes that the youth of a community are more than the future, but also very much the present. “The youth know what needs to be done like everyone else, but they took on the responsibility to do it and the results speak for themselves,” he says.
Written by Jason Powers, national public affairs and communications adviser for NeighborWorks America.