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October 10, 2002

College, ex-basketball star mean
business in area neighborhood

In the not so distant past, Kevin Johnson was best known for his exploits on the basketball court as a member of the National Basketball Association's Phoenix Suns. Now he's teaming up with the CSUS College of Business Administration to restore the luster to one of Sacramento's original neighborhoods.

After a 10-year all-star career that featured 96 NBA playoff appearances, Johnson returned to his roots in Sacramento's Oak Park where he launched an ambitious program to revitalize the area and improve educational opportunities for its children.

He founded the St. Hope Academy, an after-school program for "at-risk" children. He is also working to establish a charter school in the neighborhood and has helped spark renovations of the area's historic houses and buildings.

Now Johnson is working with the College of Business Administration to launch businesses in Oak Park.

"St. Hope has a great need for assistance with marketing strategies, business plans and all other aspects typically associated with creating and operating a start-up business," Johnson says. "In a nutshell, CSUS students have the opportunity to participate in 'real-life' experiences by assisting the various St. Hope nonprofit groups on a practical, business level."

Since early February, Johnson says, students from the College of Business Administration have been working on projects related to St. Hope's 40 Acres Art Gallery and Cultural Center. The mixed-use complex, which is scheduled to open in late fall or early winter, will include the newly refurbished Guild Theater, Miss Carol's Books, a Starbucks franchise, a barbershop, a restaurant and the Upper Rooms apartments.

"The students get to participate in helping to shape the nonprofits from a marketing, operating and technical standpoint and St. Hope benefits from the resources the university and its students provide," Johnson says.

The partnership between St. Hope and the College of Business Administration features students from three different departments. For example:

  • Management information science students, under the direction professor Sylnovie Merchant, worked closely with St. Hope management to plan the design and implementation of websites for the 40 Acres Art Gallery and Cultural Center, as well as some of the individual businesses operating from the site.
  • Marketing students, under the direction of professor Dennis Tootelian, helped research and analyze the best approaches for creating a marketing plan for the 40 Acres complex. As part of this effort, the students developed marketing plans for some of the retail establishments at the complex.
  • Management students, under the direction of professor Jack Merchant, helped research and develop a business plan for the St. Hope Development Company, the nonprofit entity responsible for developing and managing the 40 Acres complex.

"It's a practical application of what they're learning in the classroom," says Patience Crowder, business development manager for St. Hope. She notes that some students even stayed on as volunteers once the semester ended.
Opportunities for future collaborations are virtually unlimited, she says. "We're a community development company, so we'll be doing many more projects in Oak Park."

That suits Johnson. "I am very pleased with the work-product that the students produced and appreciate the cooperation that St. Hope has received from faculty members. I look forward to beginning new projects in the fall," Johnson says.

"I am very excited about our students' involvement in this community project with St. Hope," says College of Business Administration Dean Felicenne Ramey. "I know that it will benefit our students and St. Hope-a win for all of us."

Johnson's early contact with the University was through Eric Gravenberg, student affairs associate vice president at CSUS, who serves on the St. Hope Academy board. The two talked about creating a lasting, solid partnership with the University. Johnson then met with CSUS President Donald R. Gerth and Ramey, and the partnership with the College of Business Administration was born.

In addition, St. Hope also has agreements with the CSUS College of Education to develop curriculum for a charter school and with the University's outreach services to encourage children and parents to think about college.

"I am a firm believer that forming partnerships with well-run organizations that have hard-working individuals is needed to accomplish great things," Johnson says. "This is especially true in the nonprofit sector where resources are often at a premium. St. Hope is all about community building and educating, training and empowering individuals.

"What better partner could there be than a local university that continually demonstrates a commitment to its community? A partnership with CSUS provides us with access to great resources and immediately legitimizes our efforts in the eyes of countless foundations and organizations."

Johnson has made an impression on his associates at the University as well. At the University's Spring 2002 commencement, President Gerth presented Johnson with the President's Award, which is given for outstanding service to the University, to higher education or to the public and common good. Johnson also received the Africa Peace Education Award from the CSUS Center for African Peace and Conflict Resolution in 2000.


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