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Residents of Govans want a revitallized York Road and more civic clout to make sure that City Hall helps them improve everything from infrastructure to schools.

Those are among the findings of Loyola University Maryland's initiative to learn how the school can help the Govans area, which surrounds the university.

The purpose of the "Loyola Is Listening" initiative, which began earlier this year with a series of public forums, is to find out "What can Loyola do to help you?" said Terry Sawyer, vice president for administration.

Sawyer said Loyola wants the Govans community to be able "to use Loyola's voice to partner with the community to get things done, to help them be more active civicly."

Loyola sponsored the forums to hear what residents like and dislike about the area, what they would like to see improved and how they think Loyola can help.

Sawyer said in March that Loyola, a Jesuit institution, saw reaching out to the area as a responsibility.

"We want to get know Govans in a deeper and more meaningful way," Sawyer said at the second of the three meetings, March 10.

The forum was part survey and part oral history as participating residents came in to talk about their communities and their needs and hopes for the future. They sat down with Loyola officials, who asked questions such as how long the residents had lived in the area, whether they felt connected to the neighborhood, whether they had health care, and what services Loyola could offer, such as financial literacy.

Once the forums were over, Loyola officials analyzed their findings and reported back to the community at another forum earlier this month.

Sawyer said after the most recent forum that there are three areas in which Loyola can be of most help to the community -- and to Loyola's own students:

* Encouraging students in the School of Education to volunteer in the community -- a kind of professional development program for student teachers.

"It's broadly defined," Sawyer said. "We're going to work with the communities to put some flesh on that."

* Helping to revitalize and upgrade the York Road business corridor by using students in Loyola's Sellinger School of Business and Management to work with small businesses on specific problems, such as how to attract more clients and market themselves more effectively.

* Using Loyola's Office of Government and Community Relations to help increase the "civic capacity" of the Govans communiity, Sawyer said. The idea is to set an "agenda" of issues, such as streetscaping, lighting and infrastructure improvements, then come up with strategies to effect change.

Loyola now will begin implementing programs based on its findings, but will also hold more listening forums. No dates are scheduled yet, university spokeswoman Courtney Jolley said.

"This is not a hard stop on the listening," Sawyer said.


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