History and Mission
Community House was founded in 1969 by an interracial group of seven Princeton University undergraduates. Their action was a response to a cry for political and social reform by Professor Julian Jaynes, then Master of Wilson College. These students turned their sights toward the Princeton community after learning several shocking statistics, including the fact that the median length of schooling for African Americans over 25 who live in Princeton was 10.3 years, while that of white males was over 16 years.
Additionally, African Americans comprised only about 10 percent of the population but resided in 40 percent of Princeton's 130 substandard dwelling units. Armed with an understanding that a large part of the Princeton community was being neglected, the University students submitted a proposal to the Urban Studies Social Action committee to create a residential community action center at 164 Witherspoon St. (a vacant University property): "While offering specific services to the community, this center was also to act as a clearinghouse for the needs and problems of neighboring citizens in the 12 block area." The center came to be affectionately known in the area as Community House.
When neighborhood residents recognized Community House's genuine concern for issues affecting their lives, they began to recommend services that would have a direct impact. Unfortunately, minority children were not being stimulated by the educational system in Princeton. One founder, echoing the sentiments of the rest, said, "I have a tendency to think that it has something to do with .... how they are taught to think about themselves within the school." Many children who were considered to be "at-risk" initially used the center as a social meeting place. After establishing a connection, these children actively sought the assistance of House members. Based on the students' initiative, Community House developed after-school programs to help provide them with tools for attaining academic success.
This system of getting connected, listening to the needs of the community, and involving them in the design of programs has helped Community House to build lasting relationships with the people we serve. In 1973, concern about students residing in housing that could be used by the low-income population caused Community House to move into the Princeton Youth Center at 102 Witherspoon St. In 1982, the Princeton Arts Council acquired the property and decided to lease all rooms, including the space occupied by Community House. Insufficient funding prevented the House from leasing the office space. Later that same year, Community House relocated away from the John Witherspoon community and into 48 University Place. It remained at this site until 1995, when it found a home on the second floor of the Third World Center at 86 Olden St. The physical move placed the house out of the community, but our spirit and commitment to servicing the John Witherspoon and neighboring areas remains as strong as ever.
In the fall of 2010, Community House celebrated its 40th anniversary with a move into new quarters at 58 Prospect Ave., where for the first time it has space that was designed to meet the specific needs of the organization, including roomy quarters on the third floor for the new Community House After School Academy (CHASA) tutoring center.
Among its current activites devoted to closing the minority achievement gap in Princeton are programs that bolster early childhood literacy, promote the mastery of fundamental academic skills, and create early awareness of post-secondary opportunities for underserved minority youth.