An update from Courtney, a junior majoring in psychology and minoring in photography:

As a student in Latino Religions, throughout the semester I have explored religious identities of the Latino population and how those individuals go about exploring and practicing their religious faith.  Part of our exploration has involved seeing how the church has treated and contributed to bettering the Latino communities across different Latin American countries.  This exploration has contributed to our study exploring a unique community in the heart of Dallas called Jubilee Park Community Center.

For our class project I am a participant in the group that is focused on Jubilee Park before 1997.  Our group is exploring and discovering how Jubilee Park was born.  Before 1997 Jubilee Park was a low-income inner-city community where violence and crime rates were high and local public schools were at the bottom of the performance scale.  With the help of Jubilee Park and the commitment to improve education, public health, public safety, housing and economic development, crime rates have dropped by 60 percent since 2007 and another 25 percent in the past two years.  The once unrecognized local elementary school, O.M. Roberts Elementary School, has been ranked Exemplary in 2008-2009 and 2009-2010.

As our group continues to research the history of Jubilee before the center existed, we hope to answer questions such as: How have things changed in the area over time? What was the area like during the time of segregation? What was the name of the area before it was “Jubilee Park,” and why was the name changed? We plan to further our research by interviewing individuals who have lived and experienced the transformation of the 62-block radius that is now a group of people who share a commitment for community ownership.  We will also interview and meet with Dallas historians and spend time researching the area that Jubilee Park calls home.

My experience with Latino Religions and the Jubilee Park Community has given me a better sense of how people create a community, based around race, ethnicity and religion, where each individual feels safe and welcomed.  Our goal is to inform those who are willing to listen about the transformation that has occurred over the years and show that dedication and hard work within a community can change a life, no matter who you are or what background you come from.  Being a part of this engagement learning experience has broadened my own knowledge of the history of the city where I was born and raised, and has shown me how important it is to become involved and give back to the community.