Fri, Aug 15 2008
LeTourneau University will be honored for community service work done by its students for a neighborhood clean-up program in Dallas that benefited from the students’ class project.Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert and City Councilwoman Carolyn R. Davis will present LETU with a proclamation honoring the school for its students’ and faculty members’ work on the Ferguson Road Initiative (FRI) and its Weed and Seed program at ceremony beginning at 9 a.m., Wednesday, Sept. 3, in the Flag Room of Dallas City Hall. A reception precedes the ceremony.
Students in LETU’s Dallas Education Center provided valuable strategic analysis and outcomes assessment studies over the past few years for a nonprofit organization in Dallas known as the Ferguson Road Initiative (FRI).
The students’ assessments were used by FRI in a successful $1 million grant request from the United States Department of Justice to expand its neighborhood clean-up program.
The community-based organization’s strategy is to “weed out” criminal activity while they “seed” the area with initiatives to ensure long-term economic growth and a better quality of life.
FRI comprises neighborhoods, schools, churches, businesses, apartments and others working together to improve the crime rate and quality of life in the White Rock Hills area of Dallas, north of Interstate 30 along Ferguson Road. Their mission is “to transform the Ferguson Road corridor into a safe, beautiful, prosperous and proud community by inspiring hope through collaboration and developing and implementing a shared community vision.”
That’s quite a task since the area was notorious for home burglaries, graffiti, drug-related crimes, gangs, prostitution and auto thefts.
“LeTourneau University has been a valuable partner in helping us with our annual evaluations because having an external, independent third party evaluation is what many funders want to see,” said Kerry Goodwin, the weed and seed coordinator for Ferguson Road Initiative. “The students’ work has played a significant role because it showed that we have others review what we do.
“The students present their evaluations and we listen, think about what the students have to say, and modify our strategy based on their proposals,” Goodwin said.
An example was the students’ recommendations that FRI meet with the Dallas Police Department to discuss increasing officer patrols in the area. In the five years that the FRI has done this, there has been a 61 percent drop in violent crime, according to Goodwin. After another student evaluation, the FRI responded by adding an additional 20 percent more this year for police patrols.
Because of success in cleaning up its initial target area, the FRI expanded its efforts to clean up an adjacent area that Dallas police call 2-Points, located just east of the original Ferguson Road Initiative’s focus area. 2-Points has been one of the highest crime areas in the city, state and nation for years, facing problems with residential break-ins, drugs and related crimes, auto thefts and prostitution. Economic development, such as adding grocery stores, will follow as crime is reduced in these neighborhoods.
LETU students also have done similar work for the City of Anna, Texas, located about 40 miles north of Dallas. The university’s Business Research class, taught by Dr. E. James Tew, analyzed the feasibility of the city’s business and industrial attractiveness to make plans for rapid population growth like the city has experienced in the past five years.