Eastside Jacksonville Experimental Learning

Experiential Learning Essay

Jacksonville, Florida is the largest city in United States and was named after president Andrew Jackson. Looking around my neighborhood, I see streets lined with nice, sound homes with healthy green lawns. A short walking distance from there are primary and secondary schools, and further along are various supermarkets and nearby clinics; making it the perfect neighborhood for a growing family. Driving across Jacksonville, walking down from E 4th Street to E 8th Street and back again, I noticed the streets were lined with various neglected houses. Houses with broken windows, rickety front porches, missing roof shingles, overgrown yards, many empty lots, abandoned buildings, liquor stores on almost every corner and not a supermarket in sight. In other words, this side of Jacksonville is very separate from rest of city.

While continuing my trek through the east side of Jacksonville, a group of friends and I were stopped by a few curious citizens asking if we were alright and inquiring on what we were doing wandering around the neighborhood. After informing them of our task, we thanked them for expressing their concern over our well being and continued on our separate paths. While most homes were in a neglected state, others were being repaired or showed signs of repairs. We were able to catch a glimpse through the open front door of a couple houses and it seemed that most of the houses had the same floor plan: a long narrow hallway leading from the front door and breaking off into various different rooms.

Before ending our trek, we had the opportunity to interview one of the members of the community.  Mr. Zebedee Williams, who had stopped us out of concern for our well being, stated that “it would be nice if the grocery stores were closer and if the park was better built, so the kids could play.”

We then inquired on what improvements he would like to see implemented for good, to that Williams said

“I would definitely say control implementing things that would keep the kids busy. So they wouldn’t get you know a part of violence, negative things like that. I think if they were to enforce more control over the neighborhood, it’ll bring a lot of crime(s) down.”

Moving forward in the interview we asked Williams if he felt safe in his neighborhood and to that he answered he did feel pretty safe, since he didn’t have a reason to not feel safe. We brought into reference about a few topics we learned in-class having to do with the contamination and pollution of areas within that side of Jacksonville, and he answered that he didn’t have any complaints about the water and made mention of a water treatment plant on Buckman St.

Lastly we asked if he and his wife had children and whether or not they would them growing up here, to that he answered No, he wouldn’t want his children or any children growing up here. He then mentioned his nieces and nephews who were raised around there and that they had plenty of bad experiences. Williams told us he would rather move to a better environment for his children, since he wouldn’t want them to influenced by the negatives happening in that neighborhood. After interviewing Williams, I concluded that the neighborhood is mostly lacking in attention from the city; just a diamond in the rough.

After witnessing the separation happening across Jacksonville, I began to do research using City-Data, and compared the neighborhood (32206) to my neighborhood (32216). Real Estate Property taxes for 32206 are significantly less than my neighborhoods’ tax. Then there’s the estimated housing values being at $74,400 in the 32206 area compared to $124,500 in 32216. Household incomes are about half ($23,275) compared to my neighborhood where the average is $46,731. Majority of the populace in the 32206 region only obtained a high school or equivalent education. In my neighborhood there’s a only a 7 percent difference in those who only completed high school or the equivalent and those who went beyond that and got their bachelors.

Continuing my search I stumbled upon Richard Florida’s “America’s Biggest Problem Is Concentrated Poverty, Not Inequality”, where he analyzes and explains a study made by Paul Jargowsky on “the devastating growth of geographically concentrated poverty and its connections across America”. According to Florida, the number of people living in low income neighborhoods has nearly doubled from 2000 to 2013. Florida says:

“Jargowsky finds that poor children are even more likely to live in high-poverty neighborhoods than poor adults. Poor black children under six years of age demonstrate the widest gap in poverty concentration (28 percent). In contrast, poor white children were less likely to live in high-poverty neighborhoods than poor white adults, and saw only a 6.2 percent gap in poverty concentration.”

Florida delivers more statistics and facts on the increasing poverty, and then states what Jargowsky suggests we should change before finally including his own suggestions for change:

“First, we not only need to build more housing, but to build affordable housing in increasingly unaffordable urban centers—something that is in line with Jargowsky’s suggested reforms. Second, we need to act on the income side of the affordability equation by raising the minimum wage to reflect local living costs, while working hard to upgrade the wages and working conditions of the nation’s more than 60 million poorly paid service workers. And third, we need to invest in transit to connect disadvantaged areas in both the urban center and the suburbs to areas of jobs and opportunity” (Florida).

Overall this has been a huge learning opportunity for me, and I feel as though I have learned a lot about situations I never even thought were happening where I live as well as other places.

by Chelsea Rodriguez

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