“When I first moved to the RiverView residence hall, I thought the Riverwest neighborhood was a happening place where I could get involved. The parks are gorgeous, and there are many people milling along the streets,” says Amy Budnowski, freshman at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee about her first impression of the Riverwest neighborhood and community. “I love to go to the parks and I have run along the river paths multiple times as well.”  Amy, who graduated from Riverside University High School, was already familiar with Riverwest when she moved to RiverView in August. Many students who come from out of town, like Madison resident Sarah Talmadge, are more wary of venturing across Humboldt Boulevard. “People told me it was sketchy,” says Sarah, admitting that the University and RiverView did not say anything to put an end to the stereotypes of crime in the neighborhood.  I ask Sarah if the University or housing staff at the dorms informed students of any resources in the Riverwest area, and she immediately says, “Oh yes! The East Library, I go there a lot.” Sarah thinks of “bars and fast food” when she thinks of Riverwest.  Riverwest is actually known locally for its organic and health foods, but many University students, freshman especially, are unfortunately not being informed of all the resources Riverwest has to offer.  Spencer Chumbley, the Neighborhood Housing Office’s COAST Leader, serves as a liaison between RiverView students and the Riverwest community. Chumbley feels that “none of the students come over here,” because students think the neighborhood is “scary.” He sees a great opportunity for students to contribute to the community, and also for residents of the neighborhood to welcome them, “Riverwest needs UWM and UWM needs Riverwest.”  “Residents want to see their neighborhood developed and maintained without losing its character,” and students can help, he says, by being present in the area and contributing and supporting the local economy. There are so many places for students to go and hang out, says Spencer; counting on his fingers, “Fuel Café, the Co-op, Video’s.” “There are so many great alternatives,” says Chumbley, like renting from Riverwest Film and Video on Center Street instead of Blockbuster.  Chumbley also adds that there are many non-University programs and organizations that can get students involved in the area, like the Urban Ecology Center. There was, “no formal relationship until the COAST program” to integrate students into the community, but Spencer hopes to see a more active, positive relationship in the future.  Chumbley hosted a program on October 15 to inform RiverView students of opportunities and resources to take advantage of in the area. Ann Brummitt of the Milwaukee River Work Group spoke about opportunities to fish, run, walk, or bike by the river. “I hope you’ll be aware of what’s happening by the river,” she said, adding that “crime actually decreases and the neighborhood becomes more vibrant when people occupy the parks.”  Wendy Mesich, co-chair of the Riverwest Neighborhood Association told students about local shops, restaurants, cafes and galleries, mentioning the many volunteer opportunities available to students. Mesich highlighted Woodland Pattern, Fuel Café and the Riverwest Artists Association, also inviting students to upcoming RNA meetings.  “Even a few Republicans shop there,” said Gibson Caldwell, telling students about the diverse population that shops at the Riverwest Food Co-op, 733 E. Clarke St. The Co-op is a great resource to students who want to get food in bulk, or eat organic, locally grown foods. Caldwell encouraged students to “come in and meet people!” and stop by for breakfast and a cup of coffee. He reminded students that “everyone can be a member” of the Co-op. Even, he reiterated, Republicans.  The COAST event Wednesday closed with Sura Furaj talking about the community, and students’ responsibility to keep the area clean. “You are now stewards of this land because you live here,” she remarked, speaking about the river area in particular. She informed students of local organizations, and spoke briefly about local politics and attitudes of the area. The night was concluded with a raffle where students won gift certificates to the Co-op, Shi Chai and Fuel Café, Tshirts from Riverwest Yogashala, and other Riverwest goodies.  While many students are avoiding the area, Amy Budnowski is one student who is truly taking advantage of local resources, events and information. “I am enrolled in a class specific to RiverView residents called English 150: Multicultural America,” she explained. “Our course schedule involves participation in campus and community events. Our professor informs us of activities such as Art Walk, Center Street Daze, and RNA meetings. I just went to the October one and found it informational and exciting.” If more students, like Amy, are wiling to get involved, the neighborhood and the students will both benefit.  The main demographic of students are not going into Riverwest, but the ones that do make a conscious decision to be there because they appreciate the neighborhood, Chumbley concluded. He hoped for the best on both sides – while students have to be respectful, neighbors also have to realize all the positive contributions a population of young people can bring to a community.riverviewmaprgb.jpg