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Dec. 7, 2012
CONTACT: K. E. Schwab

SRU students present community project

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Nearly 50 Slippery Rock University students in Alice Del Vecchio's "Community Development" classes have spent the past semester developing a detailed and extensive report for the Butler County Collaborative for Families that had its initial presentation Thursday.

The first of two presentations was offered in Eisenberg by five of the student teams that tackled assigned segments of the county for review. The second presentation will be offered at 5 p.m., Dec. 12, in Eisenberg.

The collaborative involves some 35 county social service agencies.

The research project was linked to the collaborative through Amanda Feltenberger, director of service integration and quality management in Butler County Human Services.

"It has been an extraordinary amount of work, but the students have been diligent and have had a good dose of what it's like to be a community organizer," Del Vecchio, an assistant professor of professional studies, said.

Dale Pinkerton and Jim Eckstein, both Butler County commissioners, were among those from the community who attended to listen to the various reports.

Pinkerton thanked the students for their involvement and said, "I truly appreciate what you are doing. I hope we get a lot out of it."

The presentations, by segments of Butler County, reviewed such areas as services available to youth, number of churches, parks, entertainment venues, schools and income.

"The student's primary tasks were to collect and review census data in Butler County's 42 communities as related to income, population and with particular focus on youth," Del Vecchio said.

"The information collected by the students has been entered into a spreadsheet so it can be viewed for comparative purposes and future research by the Butler County Collaborative and others," she said.

"Agencies have said for years that 'somebody ought to...' but no agency has had the time to dedicate to this work that the students have undertaken," she said.

The student team reports included short, video presentations and looked at school growth, potential champions to help create new opportunities for youth as well as "red flags" that could work against program development.

The project also involved conducting focus group sessions with various stakeholders to obtain a 360-degree look at Butler County youth ages 12-25.

Focus group sessions were with youth, faith-based organizations, social service providers, school personnel and local officials. Those who participated in focus groups were invited to attend the presentations and are included in the contact database for future reference.

"The student groups indexed all churches, social service organizations, schools, youth-focused businesses, youth employers and park/playgrounds within the 42 communities they studied," Del Vecchio said. "The resultant spreadsheet now has 400 plus entries for the county."

Plans call for the information to be entered into a geographic information system next semester that will make the locations of such community groups visual and able to be illustrated in future spreadsheets.

"The project also asked the students to identify existing 'champions' for youth in the county as well as those organizations, individuals, businesses within the county that could be potential champions to initiate or financially support new programs and projects," Del Vecchio said.

"Another assignment was to identify potential champions outside Butler County who could offer financial support, information and project models that might be useful in Butler County as various communities within the county begin to develop youth task forces and youth councils. Potential champions have also been collected into a comprehensive spreadsheet so that the collaborative can make future contact," she said.

As part of their work, the SRU students identified two critical areas regarding youth development. They also offered recommendations, included clearly outlined projects and timelines for implementing their recommendations.

The participating commissioners presented each student with a certificate recognizing their work.

Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.