2024 Davis Grant Recipients - Pedro Huet, Jane Kim, and Joseph Olasusi

Pedro Huet, Jane Kim, and Joseph Olalusi

59th Street Garden: A Community Approach for Solving Neighborhood Crime

Fellows Pedro Huet, MPP’24 and Jane Kim, MPP’24, along with Joseph Olalusi, MPP’24 are studying at the Harris School of Public Policy. They will use their grant for the project 59th Street Garden: A Community Approach for Solving Neighborhood Crime to establish a community garden in the Englewood neighborhood, a southside Chicago community that has been burdened by violence and a lack of public and private investment for decades.

May 25, 2024

We’ve been busy at work and made lots of progress to see our goals materialize. Our project continues to grow into something greater than what we originally envisioned, many opportunities and new challenges.

Pictured: The Updated 59th Street Englewood Community Garden Poster.

In the last two weeks, we ramped up our engagement with the Englewood community. Joseph and his mom met with Donnie Carter, an 85-year-old community curator famous for contributing to the signs of local businesses, among them, Harold’s Chicken! Joseph went to visit him at the senior home where he lives. Donnie continues to make art and even gave Joseph a tour of his art gallery in his living room.

We hope to collaborate with Donnie at the garden to fulfill our goal of helping Englewood and to honor an important member of the community and their legacy. Donnie has been really excited to be part of the project, creating incredible garden’s signs with his special touch.

While working on the garden, we heard some noises near the abandoned house next to the plot of land. Talking with Joseph and his mom, Amir shared how he was stuck in a rut and didn’t feel he had an opportunity to make a meaningful contribution. Joseph and his mom asked Amir if he wanted to get his hands dirty and help with the garden. Now, we have a new and hardworking member at The 59th Street Garden!

Pictured: Donnie Carter painting signs for The 59th Street Garden (Left) and Amir and Joseph  (Right).

Our outreach is going well. Joseph presented on The 59th Street Community Garden at the Englewood Village Meeting on May 21st. It was a great opportunity to share all the progress we’ve made to encourage other community members to spread the word to youth and reach as many Englewood residents as we can.

Pictured: Joseph presenting the completed sign of The 59th Street Community Garden E.V.M.

Great news! The Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation notified us that our team is a recipient of one of their innovation grants to organize an Englewood Innovation Summit. The Grant will help cover the costs of organizing and developing the event at the university. We plan to hold the Englewood Innovation Summit during the 4th week of our garden programming. We hope to have the Policy Summit at the University at the Mansueto Institute of Urban Development and International House’s Assembly Hall for the event. We have a lot of ideas around event logistics, but one thing is for certain, The Englewood Innovation Summit is happening!

So far, one of the most important takeaways of this whole experience has been that the progress we’ve made is because of the effort being put in. These last two weeks, Joseph and his mom have put incredible effort into making this community garden a reality. Things are just getting started and we can’t wait to see our efforts come to fruition for Englewood and its residents.

May 10, 2024

We’ve finished up the construction of the garden fence! Access to the garden is secure and the likelihood of rodents nibbling at crops greatly reduced. We have more plans to reinforce the perimeter of the garden with bricks.

Pictured: The 59th Street Englewood Community Garden completed fencing.

In the last two weeks, our team has been focusing on contacting numerous organizations within the Englewood community to establish stronger relationships. Joseph will be speaking at the Englewood Village Meeting on the 21st of May at the Hamilton Park Cultural Center to inform residents of The 59th Street Community Garden Peace Project. We hope this engagement will help recruit youth to participate and attract more collaborations with local organizations and actors to get involved.

Joseph has asked members of the Resident Association of Greater Englewood (R.A.G.E.) if they could get a member of their staff to participate in the Englewood Community Garden Programming, specifically for a policy challenge initiative for the youth volunteers. We are in the process of organizing the Englewood Innovation Summit.

Pictured: Englewood Innovation Summit Proposal

We submitted a grant application to Englewood Quality of Life Plan to expand our project. The longer-term goal is to make the Englewood Innovation Summit a yearly event.

Pictured: Englewood Quality of Life Plan Application

We are also applying for the 2024 Summer Youth Grant to expand the reach of our garden programming. We have a meeting with Sonseriya Williams from Teamwork Englewood to discuss next steps in the coming week.

In other news, a staff member was kind enough to connect us with a Harris alumni in the Chicago area who might be able to help us with our community garden’s impact. We hope to hear back soon to see if it goes anywhere. Things are looking great and we can’t wait!

April 25, 2024

We’ve had another productive week in preparation for our community garden. This summer, we are organizing The 59th Street Garden Youth Summer Program. To recruit participants, we will distribute and post our flyer at nearby schools and community centers:

Joseph is leading the efforts to get a door and a fence for the garden, a lot harder than we expected. A month ago, he purchased several doors for the garden at a retailer at $109 a piece. This week, Joseph returned to purchase the same one just to find out that it was now $149, a price hike of almost 40%. Thankfully, one door for the garden was enough. Aside from dealing with the daily frictions of planning and labor, this experience highlighted an unexpected challenge, inflation’s possible complications on the overall expected costs for our project.

Despite the setback, we expect to have the gate, and with it, the perimeter of the garden secured by this Saturday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pedro recently participated in the 2024 Projects for Peace Cohorts with the Americas cohort to connect with a community of more than 120 other teams making contributions to their communities. Pedro met two other teams, one from his city of origin, Mexico City, and another from Alameda County, CA. Our projects shared a youth development component and exchanged ideas. A great suggestion was to incorporate elements to our daily operations to excite youth that’ll be working with us, such as making a playlist with their favorite songs throughout the day, asking them what types of vegetables they would like to grow and what else they would like to see in the garden space.

We’ve made some updates to our budget. We won’t need to expense flight tickets since all of our team members will remain in Chicago this summer. This freed up some much needed cash to get the garden running and to support long-term sustainability. We also realized we can get some materials, such as shovels, leaf blowers and other relevant materials, at a lower price by purchasing second-hand.

We ran into unexpected expenses in putting up the fence to secure the garden, which required additional materials, such as steel tension lines and galvanized corner posts. Fortunately, the reduction of existing expenses and the increase of new ones evened.

April 18, 2024

In the last week, we have ironed out some important details for our garden. This summer, we are planning and offering a summer program for Englewood youth. Joseph designed a cute flyer to help with recruiting Urban Development Ambassadors for The 59th Street Garden.

The residents in Englewood are an integral part of our garden for the summer and beyond. By providing opportunities for youth to engage with the creation of the garden and learn about the history of their neighborhood, we are growing civically engaged and invested members of Englewood. Our tentative start date for programming is the week of June 17th.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last weekend, Joseph recruited student volunteers from the University to help with preparing our plot of land for the garden. Christian Gaona, a friend and peer from the MPP program, came out to help with landscaping and fence installation. Our most pressing was the installation of a fence to secure the garden and landscaping to analyze the land’s property lines.

Joseph coordinated with his awesome mom, Monica Ashford, to have a donation of mulch delivered to the garden. His mom is an avid gardener with a wealth of knowledge. She has been a huge help and will continue to support us with our garden. Tree Cutters Experts, a local tree cutter, generously donated mulch to us.

 

 

 

 

 

We have made some revisions to our budget as we get a better idea of our material costs of creating and maintaining the garden. We are currently hard at work and moving forward. There is more to do and updates to come!

April 11, 2024

We are incredibly excited and grateful to have been awarded a Davis Projects for Peace Grant for our project, The 59th Street Garden: A Community Approach for Solving Neighborhood Crime, which we will work on right here in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago this summer.

We are a team of graduate students at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy with a shared goal to create safe spaces and peace in the Englewood neighborhood. For decades, South Side Chicago has suffered from a lack of public and private investment due to the history of systemic racism in America, evidenced by oppressive policy measures such as redlining and restrictive covenants.

Originally from Virginia, Jane has lived in Chicago for nearly a decade, teaching in Bronzeville and Englewood, where she learned from her students, their families, and community members about the persistent hardships faced in these neighborhoods. Pedro, from Mexico, previously worked for the Government of the State of Mexico, where he witnessed social inequity and violence in communities with sociodemographic characteristics similar to Englewood’s. Jane and Pedro are International House Fellows in the same master’s program as Joseph, a lifelong resident of Englewood. Joseph cherishes his community and founded Gambit Chicago to create safe recreational spaces for youth. However, crime, gun violence, poverty, and employment remain pressing issues in the community, and we believe in the fundamental role of building community to bring peace and opportunities.

Now that we’ve gotten the grant, we are excited to take our first steps towards making this garden and youth programming a reality! We’ve gathered some varieties of seeds and are looking for more to grow a mix of flowers, fruits, and vegetables. We have a lot to figure out, such as the plant species most suitable for the terrain and weather conditions, as well as our garden layout for optimal planting.

Another priority is securing the garden from unwanted visitors, such as local wildlife or pets. We are trying to see if chicken wire could do the trick or if we need to build a sturdy chain link fence to match the historical fence structure onsite. Lastly, we are currently thinking about how to get the gardening tools. Should we buy new tools or maybe used ones would work just as well?

Whatever we decide, we are eager to welcome children and community members this summer. Speaking of community, we are partnering with Urban Prep High School’s Englewood Campus, where Joseph graduated and serves on its board, and local schools to engage nearby youth in gardening activities and learning. We are ecstatic to get started!

 

Subscribe

Sign up with your email address to receive news and updates.

subscribe

This form is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

We respect your privacy.

The University of Chicago
International House
1414 East 59th Street

Chicago, Illinois 60637-2997
773.753.2274

Scroll to Top