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Students bring community together through park events

May 26, 2009

ASU Professor Ariel Rodríguez knew students in his Program Planning course would love the chance to enjoy a 2.77-acre classroom with sunshine, waterfalls and artwork.

But he threw them a curveball in the form of a challenge at the Downtown Civic Space Park: Create events that inspire the people of Phoenix to join you here.

The course recently taught 20 students how to create, organize and oversee several community events that brought hundreds of residents and visitors to the park.  

Students in the School of Community Resources & Development partnered with the City of Phoenix and ASU's Parks and Recreation Student Association to offer the free activities. This included a big-screen outdoor showing of the movie "The Dark Knight," complete with complimentary popcorn and refreshments, which drew a crowd of more than 200 people.

"We had an opportunity to see, literally 200 yards away from our College, how the theories we were learning in class could be put into practice immediately in the park," says Samuel Richard, a senior in the College of Public Programs.

Rodríguez says, "The park is an ideal place to develop programs that can simultaneously impact people living at the Westward Ho, ASU students at Taylor Place, people coming from Tempe on the light rail...and other residents in the community."

In the course, students learn the need to focus on planning event details such as equipment rental, security, weather contingency plans, waste disposal, marketing and venue seating.

"They even had to work out small details like making sure the grass in the park wasn't watered shortly before the movie, or it would be wet where people were sitting," says Rodríguez.

Students have also offered a gardening seminar for clients of an adult care facility operated by the Foundation for Senior Living in Phoenix. They arranged transportation to the park and taught the seniors to plant flowers which they were able to take home.

Another event brought several seniors from the nearby Westward Ho to play board games, and Richard says he enjoyed hearing positive feedback from the participants.

"Everybody really loved it," Richard says. "It was the first time most of them had been to the park."

The ASU School of Community Resources and Development advances the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of local and global communities through instruction, research and service. The School provides nationally recognized interdisciplinary research expertise and innovative academic programs in nonprofit leadership and management, parks and recreation management, tourism development and management.

For more information about the School, visit