University recognized in Linnik case

The University of Puget Sound was presented with the Outstanding Project award by the Greater Metro Parks Foundation on Nov. 2 in recognition for its work with Project Zina Linnik, an ongoing effort to make Wright and McCarver parks safe for children.

The project is named after Zina Linnik, a 12-year-old McCarver student who was murdered four years ago. According to Tacoma’s “Daily Index,” the project originally intended to create a playground in her honor, but it grew into an ambitious goal to fundraise enough money to make the two parks safe for kids. The project has raised more than $3 million since its inception.

Monica DeHart, Puget Sound Comparative Sociology professor, and Amy Ryken, an Education professor, have both been involved in the Zina Linnik project for the past few years.

“I liked that the project focused on community development, developing elementary students’ leadership skills and partnerships across educational institutions,” said Ryken. “I decided to participate because I saw opportunities to collaborate with other educators and to create opportunities for educational exchanges between college and elementary students.

DeHart worked with students doing theses on the project, and she and Ryken organized “From the Community to the Classroom,” an event in which McCarver students shared their “experience in community development with all of us here at Puget Sound.”

“I’ve had my Social and Cultural Change students do exchanges with the McCarver students for several years in a row now,” DeHart said. “The experience is amazing because each group of students is learning from the other— the McCarver students are seeing who college students are and what they can do, and my students are learning important lessons about how social change works when
the ‘little’ people are in charge.”

“This project is meaningful to me because it provides opportunities to collaborate with other educators,” Ryken said. “Together we pose questions about the challenges of community development work and how to best structure and learn from educational exchanges. In addition we create learning experiences where elementary and college students can collaborate with and learn from
each other.”
DeHart said that the project has been a positive experience for her, as well.

“The project has meant a lot to me because it has allowed me to be involved with an amazing group of people that is continually looking for innovative ways to improve our community, our educational strategies and our collective future. I’m so humbled by the incredible efforts and creativity that people have brought forth and the way the kids, inw particular, have been able to mobilize and connect people in new and powerful ways.”

DeHart added that students who wish to get involved as mentors or volunteers in various projects such as Peacemakers, Tech Wizards or McCarver’s community garden projects should contact either herself or Ryken.