Edgewood village: A Successful Community Development Story

By: John Schweitzer, MSU CCED, Associate Director, schweit1@msu.edu

Edgewood Village, an East Lansing public housing community of 135 units serving low income families, has its roots in the civil rights and antiwar movements of the 1960s. In 1967, a group of concerned citizens and
veterans from both movements came together in East Lansing. They decided to act locally and work for social change in the Lansing area, creating one of the first broad based volunteer associations in the region: the Greater Lansing Community Organization. At its first quarterly meeting in 1968, various task forces were formed to address specific issues, including a task force for public housing and education. Edgewood Village is a direct outgrowth of the community development activities of this task force.

In 1970 the task force obtained a $3 million grant from HUD and MSHDA, allowing the Village to be built under the auspices of Edgewood United Church. It was completed and occupied by 1973. Over the years various programs were brought to the Village, designed to empower the residents and develop the community. A Head Start program to serve the residents was added in 1989. The MSU Center for Community and Economic Development (CCED) became involved with Edgewood Village in the late 1990s to create Closing the Digital Gap, a program designed to help residents become more employable and boost children's education. An eight station computer lab was created in 1997 as a Neighborhood Network Center.

The Edgewood Village Scholars Program was launched in 2009 as college preparatory program for students in grades 5 through 12 living in the Village. This program is based on the belief that academic success and learning life skills are based on personal relationships. Scholars are provided with personal academic support and mentoring. Extracurricular activities, including community service projects, prepare scholars to become well rounded college students. This program has been an outstanding success. Last spring all of the six scholars in the inaugural class graduated from high school and collectively were accepted to 14 different colleges and universities. Currently all six are attending college.

CCED's involvement continues with Edgewood Village. We are working with them to develop a comprehensive database of the Village residents to be used for networking and community development activities. We are also working with them at the block level to help promote connection, trust and a strong sense of community among the residents that will result in increased feelings of safety and quality of life among the residents.

For more information, please contact John Schweitzer at schweit1@msu.edu.

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