The Kenwood Neighborhood


"Unlimited Potential was Born in Kenwood."

When Jearnine Wagner and her colleagues established Unlimited Potential in the summer of 1966, the Kenwood neighborhood was a small, mostly African American and Mexican American community located on the Northside of San Antonio. Some observers referred to the neighborhood as a “poverty pocket,” or a comparatively poor area surrounded by wealthy suburbs. Kenwood is located west of McCullough Avenue, across from one of the most affluent residential areas of San Antonio, the Olmos Park neighborhood. 

Wagner worked closely with Joyce Sowells, principle of Sojourner Truth Elementry in Kenwood. Together with student instructors from Trinity, they implented a semester project titled "I See Me," with 50 school children. The project aimed to provide an opportunity for each child to gain an enhancement of their indentity by having an idea and following the idea through to a finished communicable form. Students could choose from various art mediums: theater, painting, sculpture, music, writing. In addition, the children were taken on field trips in order to observe other creative works to stimulate ideas.

Sowells and the students found the project to be beneficial that she continued it throughout the next school year. Student instructors from Trinity volunteered their time and students of the elementary were free to come and go as they liked, but coalesced with a spring production.

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Kenwood Community Players

The Kenwood Community Players were a theater group created out of Unlimited Potential.

Work on this...[this was a cool article:]

Kenwood players, under the leadership of Johnny Gutierrez, held events to connect with the community such as staging a mini-fair in Kenwood as part of making a 20-minute film featuring  children from the Kenwood neighborhood. The goal of this event was for visitors to understand Kenwood and its community conscience. 

The most challenging, and important, aspect of Unlimited Potential and its community programs was getting the community on board. Without a connection to the community, the Unlimited Potential team would be perceived as outsiders who could not be trusted. 

Unlimited Potential combatted this by excelling in community involvement. They visited students’ houses to connect with their families, met with important members of the community and schools, and even held street classes! 

The team quickly discovered that middle-class and underserved communities did not necessarily share the same value systems. Value systems are determined by environmental factors, therefore the Spanish-speaking child of Mexican cultural heritage might not respond to the middle-class, English-speaking, Anglo-American-oriented classroom. Community involvement was an excellent way to begin understanding how to teach students with different values.