Tuesday, February 8, 2011

New Spirit: Attracting Young Adults to Jerusalem

Urban revitalization is happening all over the world in a number of different ways. In Israel, a group called New Spirit (Ruach Hadasha) is focusing on young adults as the main catalyst of this process. It just so happens that two of the main people behind New Spirit will be in St. Louis Thursday night.
New Spirit is based on the idea that "one of the main elements which link people to a city is emotional involvement, stemming from a feeling of personal commitment."
To achieve this involvement, they focus on getting young adults to volunteer. The primary focus of the volunteering activities is an urban 'pioneer' program in which young adults are integrated into tough neighborhoods. In describing this pioneer program, they say the following:

This project is based on the assumption that true long term integration of highly educated, ideologically committed and motivated students into Jerusalem's neighborhoods can serve as the key to long term development of local communities' human resources. Following the success of the pilot program and a recent recruitment campaign, over 120 students bought in this concept yielding 7 student groups, now making their first steps "on the ground" in Kiryat Yovel, Morasha, Katamon, Neve Yaakov, Armon Ha'natziv and other neighborhoods. Each group is committed to establish at least one form of informal educational framework (i.e. study centre, extra curricular and enrichment workshops, etc.) and is working in synergy with the local neighborhood leadership.

Additionally, New Spirit has created internship opportunities to give students the professional experience and contacts necessary to land jobs in Jerusalem after they graduate. This program has been so successful that New Spirit was asked to expand the program to several other academic institutions around Israel.

While it might be harder to convince students to live in tougher neighborhoods in St. Louis, the internship program is incredibly applicable to St. Louis, which attracts students from around the world to our fine universities, but fails to keep them post-graduation. It is my belief that a program focused on creating local internship and networking opportunities could gradually stop the brain drain.

Thursday night, drop by Next Dor at 7 and hear what these entrepreneurs have to say.

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