New District: student action for a better environment

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The low secondary school “Mattarella” is a school located in a neighborhood of Palermo called “Bonagia”. It is the only school and therefore a key place for the kids who live there. The neighborhood is a problematic area of the city since it is located in the outskirt of Palermo and poorly served in terms of public services. Public transportation is highly inefficient and commutes to more central areas of the city are highly time consuming. Most of the neighborhood has been built for housing purposes, but over time the social and community life has been completely ignored so that currently the only two businesses of the whole area are a coffee shop and a supermarket. Moreover, there are just a handful of possible hangout areas available for young people living there.

It is not surprising then that what came out of the initial brainstorming and problem identification activities had been the lack of parks and green areas, public services and businesses as well as scarce care for the terrible state of maintenance which most of the streets suffer.  According to the students, these problems were caused by misadministration at the local level but intensified by the behaviors of the local population (e.g. littering public areas, scarce care of common spaces, vandalism).

Students wanted to start the change and have a positive impact on their neighborhood. After some discussions in groups they came out with three ideas, all under the project name “new district”. One idea was to carry out some cleaning activities of particularly dirty areas of the neighborhood while taking pictures to be used for a Facebook campaign in which they would show how much the place changes if one takes care of it. An important part of this idea was to use leaflets and social networks to involve the local community. The second idea was to organize a home-made sweets sale to fundraise the purchase of plants to decorate the little park in front of the school and eventually other parks of the neighborhood, depending on the amount of sold cookies. The third group decided to go for an awareness raising campaign to show the actual conditions of the neighborhood and try to involve more students in participating to their community improvement and do something for their neighborhood.

Students identified issues in their local community

Students already prepared some leaflets to sponsor their projects within the school community and the neighborhood. They all seem so motivated and eager to start with their project aiming at “making Bonagia a beautiful place to live!” as one of the students said. One the one flyer it is written “Io ci provo… e tu?” which means “I will try it, and you?” which relates to the cleaning activities in the neighborhood. The leaflet for selling sweets used a Italian saying “Dolci far niente” which means the sweetness of doing nothing and transformed this into “the sweetness of doing a lot”.

“I will try it, and you?” and “The sweetness of doing a lot” – inviting citizens to join the community action through creative leaflets




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