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Robinson Center celebrates 10th anniversary

Amanda Gray | Friday, February 18, 2011

A little more than 10 years ago, Marguerite Taylor walked into the building on N. Eddy Street that would become the Robinson Community Learning Center (RCLC), without knowing how the facility would become an integral part of the neighborhood.

“We stood here trying to figure out what we were supposed to do,” said Taylor, the associate director for Adult Programs. “It has grown into a great place.”

The RCLC serves as a community resource for the people of South Bend, specifically the Northeast Neighborhood, Taylor said. It began as an off-campus educational initiative created in partnership between Notre Dame and the Neighborhood.

The RCLC offers everything from afterschool tutoring for children in grade school to computer classes for the elderly to telephone service for a resident to use, Taylor said. They also hold community meetings there, with residents with different backgrounds coming together to give input.

“It’s a safe, neutral place,” Taylor said. “Everyone has the right to talk.”

According to the 2009-2010 RCLC Annual Report, more than 16,200 guests signed into the RCLC during the year. Jennifer Knapp Beudert, the manager of the RCLC, said the RCLC programming reaches an additional 3,000 people outside of the building with programs in South Bend community schools.

“The foundation of everything we do is relationships,” Beudert said. “Our new slogan is ‘A decade of changing lives, one relationship at a time.’ It’s all about relationships.”

During the morning and early afternoon, adults participate in activities ranging from Wii Bowling and fitness to book and computer clubs. After 3 p.m. the rooms transform, bringing in a crowd of young children and college tutors from Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s, among other volunteers.

Notre Dame sophomore Linda Scheiber is one of the tutors, and she helps seventh-grader Joy Brown.

“I’ve been here a year,” Scheiber said. “We help with pretty much all subjects, math and reading the most.”

Brown said she went to the RCLC when she was a little girl, and she recently came back to get some help with homework.

“[The help from tutoring] is good,” Brown said. “I enjoy being here.”

Sophomore Isaac Harrington said he has helped seventh-grader Paul Ferguson for two years.

“My roommate wanted me to start coming with him,” Harrington said. “It was fun, so I kept coming.”

Ferguson said he was grateful for the help.

“If I didn’t have tutoring, I probably wouldn’t be getting my homework done,” he said.

Beudert said around 300 college student volunteers help each semester, with around 130 in both afterschool tutoring and the Take Ten program, an initiative going to local schools to teach students violence prevention and conflict resolution. Others help in English as a Second Language (ESL) courses and adult programming. 

Dr. Jim Frabutt, who serves on the RCLC Advisory Board, said the RCLC emerged out of a plan to find a way to have better relations with the community.

“It’s a neat success story for Notre Dame and the Northeast Neighborhood,” he said. “It’s a great start, a great foothold. It’s one of the biggest assets Notre Dame has in terms of relations with the community. It serves as a great example of how these partnerships work.”

Frabutt said the RCLC touches everyone, no matter what age, because of the community it fosters.

“That’s why this place has a 360-degree perspective,” he said. “It touches the lives of college students, faculty and local students.”

Taylor said the way the RCLC was designed was instrumental in its community feel. Through community meetings during the months before it opened, residents had a large input of what they wanted the building to be.

“It’s not what we want it to be,” Taylor said. “It’s what the community wants it to be.”

Tonight, the community is invited to an open house from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. to celebrate the anniversary, Taylor said. There will be speakers and special guests, as well as music.

“[The RCLC] is truly a reflection of the neighborhood,” Taylor said.

She is the third of five generations to live on Francis Street and lives two blocks from the building. In fact, the center is named after her mother, Renelda Robinson, whom Taylor said was the heart of the neighborhood.

“She was a community activist,” Taylor said. “She died before she could see it. She’d be thrilled if she could see it now.”