The Sage Project at San Diego State celebrated their 2016-2017 partnership with the City of Lemon Grove at a research symposium on April 24. The event was open to students, faculty and the general public.
The project, according to its website, is a partnership between SDSU and a local government in which students engage in real-world projects benefiting the community
The Sage Project was established in 2013 and has partnered with San Diego, National City, Santee, Tijuana and Lemon Grove.
According to its website, Lemon Grove has a population of 26,000 residents in southeast San Diego County.As a small municipality nested within an expansive metropolis, Lemon Grove faces the unique challenge of preserving its unique history and small town charm amidst a largely urban landscape.
Since its start, the program has worked with 48 faculty members and over 3,200 students on 37 projects.
“This project is important for students because it connects academia to the real-world workforce,” said geography senior Damien Herndon.
The program has been a part of 104 course curriculums, involved students from 28 disciplines and dedicated over 100,000 hours towards the communities they have partnered with.
Civil engineering, city planning, public administration, public health and geography SDSU majors have the opportunity to work on the Sage Project in their classes.
Students have worked on projects focused on urban design, disaster preparedness and response and energy, waste and water conservation.
Sage Project Director Jessica Barlow said the budget averages $25,000 per project and is typically $100,000 to $150,000 per year.
For Lemon Grove in particular, students in the Sage Project have proposed designs for a gateway, mural and drainage system.
Barlow said this project allows students to be involved in the community by solely going to class.
“By taking the class, students are doing hands-on projects and going out in the community to help improve that community,” Barlow said.
Lemon Grove is the first city in the United States to use the UN toolkit as part of their climate action plan.
The UN-Habitat reached out to Barlow after she gave a presentation about the Sage Project at a conference in Germany in July 2016. The UN-Habitat said that the Sage Project would be a great way for cities to utilize their climate change toolkit.
Lemon Grove Mayor Racquel Vasquez said there was a new energy and interest in the city following its partnership with the Sage Project.
“It was something that I never thought about until I did it,” said international relations graduate student Katherine Nager. “Their community is so excited.”
The Sage Project was replicated from a similar program at the University of Oregon, which started its Sustainable City Year Program in 2009.
The Sage Project previously worked with National City in 2013 through 2015, before partnering with the City of Santee from 2015 through 2016.
There are currently 30 similar programs nationwide, with eight of them in California.
The Sage Project is expected to partner with another city for the next calendar year.