High school students D'Aries Standford and Franchesca Collins are among those who participated in the Community Asset Census Project.  

Donor Stories

DeVry Inc. Contributes to Mapping Project

Seventeen-year-old D'Aries Standford has a new outlook on his South Side neighborhood. A junior at Morgan Park High School, Standford was among 26 high school students who participated in a Community Asset Census Project to help identify available resources in the community that will ultimately foster nieghborhood engagement.

“I traveled through the communities of Auburn Gresham, Englewood, and West Englewood mapping the businesses, organizations, churches, and many other places that provide services for these three communities,” Standford says. “I felt this job helped with my communication skills.”

Launched in 2009, the Community Asset Census Project is a key component to the University of Chicago’s Urban Health Initiative, which seeks to improve health and access to quality care on Chicago’s South Side.

Joint Medical Center-community teams have now surveyed the assets available to residents in 12 communities—a major milestone toward the project’s goal of compiling a comprehensive inventory of health care and social services across all 34 South Side neighborhoods.

Project supported by devry foundation 
The project recently gained a substantial boost from The DeVry Foundation, which contributed $25,000 to help further the project. “The University of Chicago’s Urban Health Initiative is a natural fit with many of DeVry Inc.’s goals in furthering education and building healthy communities,” says Sharon Thomas Parrott, senior vice president, external relations and chief regulatory compliance officer for DeVry Inc. “Everyone deserves access to human services including education and employment opportunities. Having these resources right in your own community is truly an asset.”

Organizers of the Community Asset Census Project recruited students from the After School Matters program as well as other high school students to walk door-to-door in several neighborhoods to identify community resources. That data was then entered into a web-enabled phone and downloaded to www.southsidehealth.org, a site used to help residents determine, for example, the most convenient place to buy fresh produce in the area.

Enlisting students was not only effective, but in some cases offered them their first job, Johnson says.

“It taught them how to hold a job, how to be responsible, and brought them in contact with community development people, which influences the way in which they think about their neighborhoods,” Johnson says. “It also brought them into contact with researchers, which influences how they think about research and data, and most importantly, it brought them in contact with the university environment.”  

preparing students for college
One of DeVry Inc.’s goals is to aid in preparing high school students for college, says Thomas Parrott. The Urban Health Initiative does this in two ways: first by creating awareness of the critical needs of families to ensure for their children’s long-term success, such as health care and education resources. And second, by engaging local high school students in the mapping process.

“I hope that many of the students who participated in the program will use the experience as a springboard to further their education,” Thomas Parrott adds.

In addition to identifying community resources, this project helps to:

  • determine where gaps in services exist in the communities
  • serve as an economic development tool for employment and training programs
  • assist with the staged growth of communities

Long term, Johnson envisions the website and its contents as a tool that can be linked to electronic medical records. “If a person is diagnosed with diabetes, the provider who makes the diagnosis could immediately direct the patient to grocery stores that sell healthier foods based on the address,” he says.

“It’s very exciting to see the partnerships that have evolved for this project,” adds Johnson. “Decision making is truly democratic and has allowed the project to grow in a way that meets multiple needs.”