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Living in Ivy: Drugs and gang activity cause stress for some students

Chad Navarro’s time living in Ivy Hill apartments has been difficult, according to the fourth-year nursing major. “If I’m being honest, I do believe that I’ve been drinking a lot more, and it’s something that I’m conscientious about,” Navarro said. “But I don’t think it’s had a significant bearing on my grades.”

Earlier this semester, however, Navarro’s apartment was broken into.

“It really shook up my roommate and myself, which I think really put a strain on our sense of security,” Navarro said.

“Being a young adult, there’s a weird idea that these things can’t happen to you,” Navarro continued. “But then you hear a strange man in your apartment, and you see men robbing a house across from your building, and the world suddenly becomes a much scarier place.”

For many students, Ivy Hill apartments offer an affordable housing option off-campus. A studio apartment costs $700, one-bedroom costs $750, a two-bedroom costs $950 and a three-bedroom costs $1,200, according to apartmentguide.com. Ivy Hill is Section 8 housing, which allows the private landlord to rent apartments and homes to qualified low-income residents according to homeforward.org.

But the low rent comes at a price. According to The New York Times, “drug dealing nearby is hardly uncommon. Parties could get out of hand. Cars were stolen. Lights were broken. Fists could fly, and weapons could be brandished.”

Gang culture is also prevalent in Ivy Hill. The violent MS-13 gang had a reputation in the complex for pulling off “petty stick-ups in elevators and parking lots” and extorting residents for quick cash, also according to The New York Times.

Some students commented on their experiences living in the Ivy Hill Park Apartments.

Gabriella Bryce, a sophomore elementary and special education major, has had an overall positive experience living in Ivy Hill.

“It forces you to be independent and responsible and take care of your own problems,” Bryce said.

Bryce added that she didn’t see a real difference between living in Ivy Hill and living on-campus.

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“There are some people that I know who sell drugs at Ivy Hill,” Bryce said. “But there are also students on campus who sell, so I don’t think it’s any different.”

Derek Bailey, a junior social and behavioral sciences major, echoed Bryce’s sentiments.

“I wouldn’t say that living in Ivy Hill is what makes anyone’s drug use or drinking worse,” Bailey said. “I believe that would just be because people aren’t yet responsible enough to live in an area where there’s no rules or structure.”

Bailey added that if students cannot handle being on their own, it would probably be best for them to stay on-campus or commute.

Karen Van Norman, associate vice president and dean of students, discussed how students can deal with living in a stressful environment such as Ivy Hill.

“I recommend that they practice good self-care including getting adequate sleep, eating healthy, getting exercise, and doing activities they find enjoyable and relaxing,” Van Norman said in an email interview.

Van Norman added that if a student’s stress is more severe, they should make an appointment with CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services).

Diane Lynch, director of Health Services, offered her thoughts on the subject as well.

“I know the crime rate is a concern in some of our surrounding neighborhoods and students walking from Ivy Hill are likely to be impacted by that,” Lynch said via email.

Lynch added that any type of stress can have a possible impact on a student’s academic performance.

“Sometimes stress is coming from something you can do something about,” Lynch said. “Other times you need to find ways to cope with the stress because you can’t change the situation.”

Isabel Soisson can be reached at isabel.soisson@student.shu.edu.

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