This time last year, we were basking in the afterglow of hosting Super Bowl XLVI. Since then, Indianapolis has seen the “Super Bowl Legacy Projects” carry on the planners’ vision of lasting change—particularly on the east side of Indianapolis. In the best IUPUI tradition, faculty, staff, and students have partnered to assist these collaborative neighborhood-based projects.
One of these is the JPMorgan Chase Near-Eastside Legacy Center on the campus of Arsenal Tech High School a few blocks east of downtown Indianapolis. The center is a collaboration of NFL Charities, Indy’s Super Bowl Host Committee, and other supporting organizations and companies. The John H. Boner Community Center oversees the Legacy Center, which features “The Fitness Zone,” a facility managed and staffed by our IU School of Physical Education and Tourism Management (PETM).
The Fitness Zone (“Powered by IUPUI”) is a low-cost site for neighborhood residents to develop healthy habits and receive training and therapy. It is also a teaching laboratory that deeply engages students.
PETM faculty and students offer physical assessments that help patrons identify fitness needs, goals, and exercise plans. Students run classes (like Zumba dancing or group exercise), oversee personal training sessions, and more. The Ability Activity Clinic helps people recovering from strokes, heart attacks, or other health issues, and assists adults managing lives with Down syndrome.
Our involvement shows how philanthropic support plus IUPUI expertise can be effective. The creation of the Near-Eastside Legacy Center was only the start for improving the area. The fitness programs would be key to a healthier neighborhood.
So IUPUI’s Solution Center partnered with the JPMorgan Chase Foundation. A Chase grant of $75,000 was matched by the Solution Center’s Community Venture Fund, allowing us to significantly increase the engagement of students, faculty, and community partners in research projects, class projects, and internships. These have included not only exercise science interns but also students in communication, website design, computer information and graphics technology, and an urban gardening project.
PETM’s work in improving fitness in the community is an excellent example of translational work and community engagement at its best. In addition to the fitness facility, our students operate the Student Outreach Clinics in the Neighborhood Fellowship Church. In the only student-run “one-stop-shop” of its kind in the nation, IUPUI social work, law, medicine, and dentistry students offer free or subsidized services to community members.
Funding from the Solution Center’s Chase Near-Eastside Legacy Initiative grant will also pay for oral surgery fees and new dentures for 20 residents, who are either unemployed or underemployed. The hope is that these dental procedures will improve patients’ appearance, allowing them to present themselves more confidently in job interviews.
The grant also supports salaries for four IUPUI student interns in the dental Student Outreach Clinic, one of whom is Stephen Hendricks, who has said that his internship allowed him to “get involved in real world problem solving” and learn first-hand the effects that inequality in access to dental care can have on employment status and quality of life in low-income neighborhoods.
Jeyanthi Bhaheetharan, an IUPUI Master of Public Health student, was able to gain experience with community-based research by interviewing near-eastside residents and health providers about local assets and needs. Her professor, Kathryn Coe, who has more than 30 years of experience conducting health research among African Americans, Hispanics, and American Indians on diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease in women, is also a Lilly Scholar in the new IU Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI.
All in all, resources and expertise leveraged by the IUPUI Solution Center as part of the Chase Near-Eastside Legacy Initiative have directly helped more than 20 community organizations since the initiative began in 2011.
Because IUPUI faculty and students share their knowledge and skills to aid community development in a way that creates lasting relationships that are mutually beneficial, we are investing in the community even as the community is investing in our students—and for the long term.