Caponigro hosts Community Learning Center open house
By JASON McFARLEY
Assistant News Editor
Walking through the Community Learning Center's (CLC) unfurnished rooms, surrounded by stripped walls and bare floors, Jay Caponigro anticipates the center will be bustling with activity in no time.
Floor plans inside the CLC show equipped computer and conference rooms, and Caponigro imagines the technology and music classes and other programs and services the center will coordinate. Outside, he hopes for "a packed parking lot each afternoon," physical reassurance that the University community and Northeast Neighborhood residents are taking advantage of the CLC's offerings.
The University-sponsored center will address education, health care, and other community issues in the Northeast Neighborhood.
Caponigro welcomed the center's first full house Friday at a 20-minute press conference where the 1991 Notre Dame graduate was announced as the University-sponsored CLC's director.
University President Father Edward Malloy introduced Caponigro as the very capable leader of what Malloy said will be "a vibrant place of gathering and learning." Two others connected with the initiative, Notre Dame sophomore Miggie Clemency and Rev. Tim Rouse, joined Malloy in lauding Caponigro's experience as a civic leader.
"I continue to be awed by his long-term vision and ability to strategically plan," said Clemency, who became involved with the project through her work at the Center for Social Concerns.
Caponigro will become the CLC's first director when it opens in mid-January. The center is located just south of the University, at 912 N. Eddy St., housed in a former Goodwill store.
Planning for the center is a process that has included consultation with about 25 Notre Dame academic departments and student organizations, the Northeast
Neighborhood Council and nearly 50 business, civic, government and religious associations.
"We're blessed to have someone who's very much interested in community organizing," said Rouse, pastor at First A.M.E. Zion Church in South Bend and a northeast neighborhood activist.
Caponigro has worked since July 1999 at the Center for Social Concerns, where he is currently director of urban programs and justice education.
In the four years prior to his joining the University staff, Caponigro led community revitalization efforts that brought 25 churches and schools together on Chicago's southwest side.
From 1991 to 1994, he worked as a community organizer in New Mexico and Texas, helping residents in both states raise funds for street and sewer projects as well as job training and education programs.
At the CLC, Caponigro envisions a place where "[Notre Dame] students, staff and professors leave knowing a little bit more about the hopes and dreams of people in the community."
"We have the capacity to make this center a place that people feel fortunate to walk into each day," he said.
"I hope that everyone who walks out the doors of the CLC feels the power of learning and growing."
Caponigro said the center will serve as a site where people of all ages can become familiar with each other while taking free computer and music classes, obtaining medical care or acquiring job skills.
He said some programs will take time to develop, but 20 computers, an electric keyboard and several conference rooms will be ready for use when the center opens.
He also confirmed that project organizers remain in discussion with neighbors and University partners to speed development of some services.
Notre Dame announced plans for the CLC in August. University officials said the estimated cost of renovating and equipping the center stands at more than $500,000. They said the center will have an annual operating budget of about $300,000.
All News Stories for Monday, December 4, 2000