New head of Urban Collaborative aims brighter light on community engagement

By Kai O’Brien

COMMUNITIES and how they interact with each other are an integral part of how we all live our lives. 

Jada Richardson, new director of the Urban Collaborative, seeks to change how we as a college community can help our local York community. 

Jada Richardson is a resident of York, graduating from William Penn Senior High School. Her first job was as the legislative assistant to State Rep. Carol Hill-Evans (D-York), where her main job was constituent services. She then became global medicine education coordinator for Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “This [job] is where it seemed to go a little all over the place,” she says. 

From there, Richardson went back to York College to finish her master’s in Public Policy. She then was offered the job of equity and inclusion community planner for the York County Planning Commission. Her goal there was to “build equity into the process and the functions of the planning commission.” She also has worked as a research assistant for York College’s Arthur G. Glatfelter Institute of Public Policy.

In August, she was named the director of the York College’s Urban Collaborative, a donor-supported initiative of the Center for Community Engagement that places students and faculty from multiple disciplines in project-based research that tangibly supports and improves quality of life in York City. During this start-up phase, according to a release that York College published when the hiring was announced, the Collaborative has focused for three years on research, information gathering, and finding ways to promote equitable housing and healthy neighborhoods without displacing residents.

In her new role, Richardson will work with community partners to identify community-based research opportunities for York College students and faculty to address needs in the city of York. She serves on the York City Human Relations Commission, York City Planning Commission, and the board of DreamWrights Center for Community Arts.

“I love that I am able to make a difference in my community,” she says. “Because I grew up here, and I see some of the issues in the city, this role in the Urban Collaborative is an opportunity for us to make right.”

Bottom line, this will allow more interaction between the residents of York and the students who attend the school. “Residents can come into the YCP community and start to eliminate some of the hard lines,” she says.

A part of that CCE umbrella isthe Urban Collaborative. Here, the primary goal is not only housing and residency for the people of York but to implement a more sustainable living situation in the York community. The Urban Collaborative also takes pride in finding ways of transportation, providing sustainable neighborhoods, groceries stores near neighborhoods, and homeownership.  “… you can not just have housing, you have to think about the qualities that make living in a certain house desirable,” Richardson says. The Urban Collaborative also feeds into the Institution for Public Policy, which is another integral part of the Center for Community Engagement.

Coming up, the Urban Collaborative is doing some Community Listening sessions in the Penn Street area. Because of the attention of the Greenway project and other planned or proposed projects in the area, residents should have a say in what is being done to their community, she says.

“York has a serious PR problem in which we have no outside representation or identity for our city, outside of it being just a bad place. When you don’t have an identity, people can tell you what your identity is,” she says.

Community engagement is key to college success, and Jada Richardson is taking us on the right path.

For more information on the CCE or Urban Collaborative, email Jada Richardson at 

Kai O’Brien is a Mass Communications major. He also runs track and field and plays for the club lacrosse team as well. 

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