Students from the Zina Linnik Project Discuss $3.5m Parks Campaign

March 16, 2010

TACOMA, Wash. – College students will be taking notes as schoolchildren almost half their age give an unusual public talk next week. About a dozen McCarver Elementary School graduates will be describing what they went through to honor the memory of their 12-year-old classmate Zina Linnik, after she was tragically kidnapped and murdered in July 2007.

The schoolchildren will talk about the confusion and pain following the highly-publicized event, and how they managed to motivate a small legion of teachers, politicians, and families to help them raise $3.5 million for the renovation of two Tacoma parks in Linnik’s memory.

“From the Classroom to the Community—Making Change Happen” will start at 6 p.m. on Monday, March 22 in Trimble Forum on the University of Puget Sound campus. The panel discussion is designed to help teachers-to-be from Puget Sound’s School of Education and others interested in community development to understand how the children have been so successful with their fundraising campaign. The public is welcome to attend.

Puget Sound professors who helped organize the event said the Zina Linnik Project is a remarkable model of community activism. Over the past two years, the McCarver students have testified before Tacoma City Council, the House Capital Budget Committee, Tacoma School Board, and the Metro Parks Board. They have also met personally with Gov. Christine Gregoire. The students have written strategic papers for class, raised funds through donations, appeared on television, collaborated with University of Washington landscape and urban design students to build models of their ideas for the parks, and motivated much of Tacoma to get behind their campaign.

“The project has not only been a huge success in terms of what it promises for the community, it has radically transformed the kids,” said Monica DeHart, associate professor in comparative sociology and panel co-organizer with School of Education Professor Amy Ryken. “This process has really made them realize their ability to achieve things, and to take community issues into their own hands and do something about it.”

DeHart and two Puget Sound comparative sociology seniors are doing independent research into exactly what lies behind the success of this youth-inspired campaign. If they can find a methodology to replicate the project, it could provide a means for other communities to rally support for neighborhood improvements. It could also guide schools and parents who wish to equip young people with the skills to make a difference in their neighborhoods. The research will seek to describe the steps taken and the local impact of the project.

 “I used to be a closed-door teacher,” said McCarver teacher Sheila Haase. “But after this process, I have been amazed at what has transpired with the involvement of my class in a real project and by inviting people into our classroom. I will never teach the same way again!”

The panel event is cosponsored by Puget Sound’s Civic Scholarship Initiative, Department of Comparative Sociology, School of Education, and Environmental Policy and Decision Making program. More events will follow, including visits by Puget Sound students to McCarver Elementary School and a trip by the school’s fifth graders to the college, where they will sit in on two classes and tour the campus.

The goal of the Zina Linnik Project is to build a new playground, community and school gardens, plaza, and reading circle at McCarver Park in the Hilltop neighborhood, as well as a playground, “sprayground" water feature, and community plaza at Wright Park in Central Tacoma, said Drew Ebersole, executive director of the Greater Metro Parks Foundation, the nonprofit fundraising arm of Metro Parks Tacoma.

“These two parks, which bookend and bridge the Hilltop neighborhood, will be attractive, safe spaces for children and families to gather, play, and build community,” Ebersole said. “They will significantly impact many lives—and what is even more impressive, is how these children are bringing them from vision to reality.”

For more information on the Zina Linnik Project visit: http://www.metroparksfoundation.org/zina-linnik-project

Tweet this: Hear from McCarver school pupils how they ran the $3.5m Zina Linnik project. @univpugetsound, 6pm, Mon. Mar. 22. http://bit.ly/9NGq9x

Follow us on Twitter! www.twitter.com/univpugetsound