Community Profile Essay

Anoka Ramsey Community College
English 1121: College Writing and Critical Reading
Fall 2001 / Sections 3 and 6
Portfolio #1: Profile Essay

Assignment:

Write an essay of 3-4 pages about an intriguing person, place, or activity in your community.  Choose one of the two following options: (1) a brief profile of an event, a place, or an activity observed once or twice; or (2) a brief profile of an individual based on one or two interviews.  (There are longer, more fully developed profiles, but these are based on several observational visits and interviews.)  Observe your subject closely, and then present what you have learned in a way that both informs and engages readers.  Two restrictions: you cannot choose to profile a family member or the State Fair.

Basic Information:

Magazines and newspapers are filled with profiles.  Unlike conventional news stories, which report current events, profiles tell about people, places, and activities.  Some profiles take us behind the scenes of familiar places, giving us a glimpse of their inner workings.  Others introduce us to the exotic�peculiar hobbies, unusual professions, bizarre personalities.  Still others probe the social, political, and moral significance of our institutions.

Profiles share many features with autobiography, such as narrative, anecdote, description, and dialogue.  Yet profiles differ significantly from autobiography.  Whereas an autobiographer reflects on a remembered personal experience, a profile writer synthesizes and presents newly acquired observations.  In writing a profile, you practice the field research methods of observing, interviewing, and notetaking, commonly used by investigative reporters, social scientists, and naturalists.  You also learn to analyze and synthesize the information you have collected.

A profile is a special kind of research project.  Profiles always involve visits: meeting with a person or going to a place.  Profile writers take notes from observations and interviews and may pick up reading materials at a place they are profiling.  They may even need to conduct library research to gather information about the history and specialized aspects of a place or an activity.

Profile Essays:

  • Are based on a writer�s newly acquired observations.

  • Take readers behind the scenes of familiar places or introduce readers to unusual places and people.

  • Provide information while at the same time arousing readers� curiosity.

  • Present scenes and people vividly and concretely through description, action, and dialogue.

  • Reveal an attitude toward their subjects and offer�implicitly or explicitly�an interpretation of them.

  • Create a dominant impression of the subject.

Purpose and Audience Considerations:

A profile writer�s primary purpose is to inform readers.  Readers expect profiles to present information in an engaging way, however.  Whether profiling people, places, or activities, the writer must meet these expectations.  Although a reader might learn as much about a subject from an encyclopedia entry, reading the profile is sure to be more enjoyable.

Readers of profiles expect to be surprised by unusual subjects.  If the subject is familiar, they expect it to be presented from an unusual perspective.  When writing a profile, you will have an immediate advantage if your subject is a place, an activity, or a person that is likely to surprise and intrigue your readers.  Even if your subject is very familiar, however, you can still engage your readers by presenting it in a way they had never before considered.

A profile writer has one further concern: to be sensitive to readers� knowledge of a subject.  Since readers must imagine the subject profiled and understand the new information offered about it, the writer must carefully assess what readers are likely to have seen and to know.

Profile writers must also consider whether readers are familiar with the terminology they want to use.  Because profiles involve information, they inevitably require definitions and illustrations.  Since profile writers are not writing technical manuals or textbooks, they can choose to define only terms that readers need to know to follow what is going on.  Some concepts or activities will require extended illustrations.

Summary of Basic Features:

1.  An Intriguing, Well-Focused Subject:

The subject of a profile is typically a specific person, place, or activity.  And, although profiles focus on a person, a place, or an activity, they usually contain all three elements�certain people performing a certain activity at a particular place.

Skilled profile writers make even the most mundane subjects interesting by presenting them in a new light.  They many simply take a close look at a subject usually taken for granted, or they surprise readers with a subject they had never thought of.  Whatever they examine, they bring attention to the uniqueness of the subject, showing what is remarkable about it.

2.  A Vivid Presentation:

Profiles particularize their subjects rather than generalize about them.  Because profile writers are interested more in presenting individual cases than in making generalizations, they present their subjects vividly and in detail.

Successful profile writers master the writing strategies of description, often using sensory imagery and figurative language�the senses of sight, touch, smell, taste, and hearing, and figures of speech such as simile and metaphor.

Profile writers often describe people in graphic detail.  They reveal personal habits and characteristic poses.  They also use dialogue to reveal character.

3.  A Dominant Impression:

Readers expect profile writers to convey a particular impression or interpretation of the subject.  They want to know the writer�s insights into the subject after having spent time observing the scene and talking to people.  Indeed, this interpretation is what separates profiles from mere exercises in description and narration.

To convey a dominant impression, writers carefully select details of scene and people and put these details together in a particular way.  They also express an attitude toward the subject, an attitude that can be implied through details or stated explicitly.  For example, a writer may express admiration, concern, detachment, fascination, skepticism, amusement�perhaps even two or three different feelings that complement or contradict one another.

Writers also offer interpretations of their subjects.  An interpretation may be implied or stated directly.  It can be announced at the beginning, woven into the ongoing observations, or presented as a conclusion.  In combination with carefully orchestrated details and a clearly expressed attitude, these interpretations give readers a dominant impression of the subject being profiled.  The effort to create a dominant impression guides all the writer�s decisions about how to select materials and how to organize and present them.

4.  An Engaging and Informative Plan:

Successful profile writers know that if they are to keep their readers� attention, they must engage as well as inform.  For this reason, they tell their stories dramatically and describe people and places vividly.  They also control the flow of unfamiliar information carefully.  Whether the overall plan is topical or chronological, writers give much thought to where unfamiliar information is introduced and how it is introduced.

Profiles present a great deal of factual detail about their subject.  However, the information can be woven into the essay in bits and pieces�conveyed in dialogue, interspersed throughout the narrative, given in description�rather than presented in one large chunk.

Parceling out information in this way makes it easier to comprehend: Readers can master one part of the information before going on to the next.  Perhaps even more important, such control injects a degree of surprise and thus makes readers curious to know what will come next.  Controlling the information flow may, in fact, help to keep readers reading, especially when the essay is organized around topics or aspects of the information.

Narration may be even more important, for it is used by many profile writers to organize their essays.  Some profiles even read like stories, with suspense building to a dramatic climax.  Writers can organize their narratives to develop and sustain suspense and drama.

Topics for Profiles:

Before you list possible subjects, consider realistically the time you have available and the amount of observing and interviewing you will be able to accomplish.  You will have about a week to plan and write up one observational visit or interview, so this should determine what kinds of subjects will be appropriate for you.  Consult with your professor if you need help defining the scope of your writing project.  When you list subjects, consider every subject you can think of, even unlikely ones.  Consider unfamiliar subjects � people, places, or activities you find fascinating or bizarre or perhaps even forbidding.  Take risks.  People like to read about the unusual.

People:

  • Anyone with an unusual or intriguing job or hobby � a private detective, beekeeper, classic-car owner, dog trainer

  • A prominent local personality � parent of the year, labor organizer, politician, consumer advocate, television or radio personality, community activist

  • A campus personality � ombudsman, coach, distinguished teacher

  • Someone recently recognized for service or achievement

  • Someone whose predicament symbolizes that of other people

Places:

  • A weight-reduction clinic, tanning salon, body-building gym, health spa, nail salon

  • Small-claims court, juvenile court, consumer-fraud office

  • A used-car lot, old movie house, used-book store, antique shop, historic site, auction hall, flower show, farmers� market

  • A hospital emergency room, hospice, birthing center, psychiatric unit

  • A local diner; the oldest, biggest, or quickest restaurant in town; a coffeehouse

  • The campus radio station, computer center, agricultural research facility, student center, faculty club, museum, newspaper office, health center

  • A book, newspaper, or magazine publisher; florist shop, nursery, or greenhouse; pawnshop; boatyard; automobile restorer or wrecking yard

  • A recycling center; fire station; airport control tower; theater, opera, or symphony office; refugee center; orphanage; convent or monastery

Activities:

  • A citizens� volunteer program � voter registration, public television auction, meals-on-wheels project, tutoring program

  • An unconventional sports event � marathon, Frisbee tournament, chess match, Special Olympics

  • Folk dancing, rollerblading, rock climbing, poetry reading

Note: This information was taken from Chapter 4 of The St. Martin�s Guide to Writing, 5th edition, by Rise B. Axelrod and Charles R. Cooper, New York: St. Martin�s Press, 1997, pp. 108-155.


�2001 Scott Stankey / All rights reserved
Last revised on July 09, 2009 by Scott Stankey
Please address comments to Stankesc@an.cc.mn.us

In the following assignment I will attempt to produce a community profile, which will be based on the Hawbush Estate in Brierley Hill in the West Midlands. The Hawbush Estate in Brierley Hill in the West Midlands was built by the Brierley Hill District Council in the 1930’s. I chose to create a community profile on the Hawbush Estate because it is local to where I live and over the last couple of years I have read in the local newspapers about local facilities closing down near the estate, which include a local leisure centre and an urban farm.

Many companies around the area have also closed resulting in a high number of people living on the Hawbush Estate being unemployed. I have changed the names of any people I have wrote about in this assignment to protect their identity. My observation from walking around the Hawbush Estate The first time I walked around the Hawbush estate it was at 6pm on one Friday evening in October 2010, during this time I noticed that there were quite a few young people who had congregated in the play area located near Hawbush Primary School.

There is only one shop on the Hawbush Estate; I decided to go there to talk to the shopkeeper about the community who live on the Hawbush Estate. When I was walking towards the shop on the Hawbush Estate I noticed that there were five young people sitting on a wall opposite the shop, the wall was full of graffiti, one of the five young people who was female asked me if I had a spare cigarette I could give her, I replied that I did not smoke.

I asked the girl if she liked living on the estate, she said that she liked to hang around with her mates on the wall, as they have a laugh but other then that there was nothing else to do. I went inside the shop on the Hawbush Estate, which sells general food items, newspapers, alcohol and tobacco; I noticed that there was no fresh food items for sale in the shop at that time.

I asked the shopkeeper if he knew the young people sitting on the wall opposite his shop, he said that he knew them all, as they would very often go into the shop. I informed the shopkeeper that one of the girls had asked me for a cigarette, the shopkeeper said that they sometimes ask people who are going into the shop to get cigarettes or sometimes a bottle of cider for them when they have some money, the shopkeeper said that the young people know that he would not serve them with alcohol and cider as they are underage.

The Hawbush Estate has no local youth centre, however, there is a community centre on the Hawbush estate, when I arrived there it was closed, so I wrote down the contact number for the centre which was displayed on a notice board outside the centre. I telephoned the Hawbush Community Centre the following Monday, and talked to the lady who was the manager of the centre. I explained to the Community Centre manager that I was creating a community profile for the Hawbush Community, and I asked her if she had the time to talk to me about the Hawbush Community.

I asked the manager about the people that access the community centre, the manager said that the centre is currently used every week by Rainbows on Wednesday evenings, a karate club takes place every Tuesday evening, a needlework group during the daytime on Mondays, and sometimes the centre is used for jumble sales to raise money for local causes. Meeting with a local resident I made arrangements to see a lady called Jane at home, Jane is a single parent who lives on the Hawbush Estate and lives with her 3 daughters.

I first met Jane a few years ago when she was volunteering at a food bank. Jane has been living on the estate for 38 years, she has her own council house now on the estate but was raised on the estate when she was younger, Jane expressed that she was worried because the government are going to cut her benefits because she has school age children and is unemployed. Jane explained that she had been for several interviews for shop work, care work and cleaning jobs but like many other single parents on the estate she had not been successful in getting a job.

Jane said that it’s been really hard looking for work; with they’re being a lack in the availability of jobs that she can apply for having no qualifications. I asked Jane if she knew whether there were many other people unemployed on the estate, Jane said that many other people on the estate were also out of work; especially since a lot of the manufacturing companies in the local area had closed.

Jane said that her dad used to work at the Round Oak Steel Works, and back then the steel works employed a lot of people on the Hawbush Estate, Jane added that there were whole generations of families who were employed by the steel works. I asked Jane about her 3 daughters, Jane said Emily is 15, Sophie is 13 and Holly is 10 years old, Jane explained that she likes to spend as much time with them as possible, but money is tight and that they get bored quite easily especially during the 6 weeks holidays from school, Jane said she finds it really difficult to do things with them that does not cost money.

Jane said that she worries particularly about Emily and Sophie, they are sensible girls but they have both been offered cannabis when they have been out and about on the estate with their friends, Jane said that she wishes that there was something for them to do in the evenings in the local community, the youth centre is to far away for them to go there. I asked Jane what she thought the positive things were about the community, Jane replied by saying that she said the access to the primary school is really good as it is only a couple of streets away and the high school is only 10 minutes walk.

Employment History The nearest town to the Hawbush Estate is Brierley Hill, which used to be heavily industrialised having numerous factories, ironworks and many large quarries and collieries that produced building materials and coal. Marsh and Baxter was a major employer in Brierley Hill, who were once the largest meat processing plant in Europe, however the plant closed down in 1979.

The Round Oak Steel works was also another large employer, employing some 3,000 people, but sadly closed in 1982 after being open for 125 years, the companies closure was due to them being unable to compete with the introduction and increased usage of alternative materials. Employment has suffered in Brierley Hill due to the decline in the manufacturing industries, this has resulted in a lack of employment opportunities being available to the surounding communities.

In 1985 the site of the Round Oak Steel Works was redeveloped into offices, a hotel and a marina named ‘The Waterfront’, today 5. 200 people are employed there, the main employers on the Waterfront are the Inland Revenue, Child Support Agency and a bank call centre, however 34% of the jobs were already taken by people who moved with their current employers to the Waterfront. The majority of the people who work at the Waterfront are women in clerical roles, wheras the Round Oak Steel works that was previosly there mainly employed men in the manufacturing industry.

The borough has a working population of 221,000 however, Brierly Hill still today remains a deprived area, a third of the working population have no formal or recognised qualifications and average incomes for workers are amongst the lowest in the West Midlands. Benefit Claimants The most recent recorded statistics from the National Statics website are from 2007, the following graph displays the percentage of benefit claimants as a percentage of the working age population. It is clear in the graph that he percentage of claimants for the Hawbush neighbourhood was considerably higher in 2007 than in the Dudley Borough and England as a whole.

Occupations of all people in employment The most recent recorded statistics which shows the occupations of all people in employment are recorded from the National Statics website in 2001, the following graph shows that the majority of people in employment on the Hawbush estate have higher numbers of occupations of skilled trades, process; plant machine operatives and other elementary occupations.

The Hawbush Primary School is located on the Hawbush Estate, Wordsley School is the nearest high school to the Hawbush Estate. Information from the Hawbush Primary Schools Ofstead report from 2008 shows that in there were 249 mixed pupils aged 3 – 11 years who attended the school. Pupils who attended the school who had learning difficulties or disabilities in 2008 was well above the national average. The Wordsley School’s Ofsted inspection took place in June 2010, at that time there were 755 mixed students attending the school who were aged 11 – 16 years.

Students who attend the school with learning disabilities or special needs is high and has been rising, there is an average amount of students who have statements in place. The national statistics online shows that in 2008 –2009 the educational attainment for the neighbourhood was relatively low in comparison to other areas The following statistics is data that has been taken from the Ofstead reports for Hawbush Primary School and Wordsley High School. Key stage one is usually assessed at the age of 7, the table below shows data on pupils that have achieved Level 2 or above in Reading, Writing and Maths:

Key stage two is usually assessed at the age of 11, the table below shows data on pupils that have achieved Level 4 or above in English, Maths and Science. Key stage three is usually assessed at the age of 14, the table below shows data on pupils that have achieved Level 5 or above in English, Maths and Science. Key stage four is when pupils take their GCSE’s. The table below shows pupils who achieve A* – C grade passes, including English and Maths.

Crime in Brierley Hill Figures from The West Midlands Police show that from September 2009 to August 2010 there were 2,431 crimes recorded by the police that took place in Brierley Hill, during the same period the police recorded 1,352 incidents of anti-social behaviour. There was a 1% decline in crime in comparison to the previous 12 month period. In comparison to other areas in the West Midlands the crime & anti-social behaviour rate in Brierley Hill is relatively high. Conclusion Researching the Hawbush Community has shown that there are plenty of areas that can be improved to enhance the community life of the people who live on the estate.

In my opinion I think that the Hawbush Community Centre could be used more effectively and run to its full potential by providing the local community with the chance to enrole on courses that could be run there to help people gain qualifications and training that would help them gain employment. Employment would enhance the well-being and health of the people who live in the community, a mobile creche could be arranged at the community centre which would benefit the high number of single mothers living on the estate who are at risk of losing their benefits if they have school aged children and are not in employment.

The community centre could also engage the young people who live on the estate by running youth groups and enabling the young people to meet positive role models/mentors which could enrich their lives by giving them a sense of pride and belonging. The educational attainment could be increased by providing the local schools with extra funding to help children and young people from the community reach higher grades, this could enable them to go onto higher education or enable them to access employment.

Bibliography

http://www.infed.org/community/community_profiling.htm

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/aug/11/lone-parents-loss-benefits-children-five-school-age

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