Once again it’s time for State College area residents to welcome to town the university students with whom we share our community. For most of these students, coming to the Centre Region is their first experience living away from home and we can help make it a pleasant one.
The vast majority of Penn State students are considerate young adults with solid values, expecting to live harmoniously among us. The State College Coalition of Neighborhood Associations suggests that by demonstrating that neighborliness goes both ways, we can encourage students to become and continue to be positive additions to our community.
Some existing programs foster beneficial student/resident interaction. For example, the Highlands neighborhood’s Neighbor-to-Neighbor program pairs about 25 fraternities with resident partners, with each pair defining its relationship. Interactions vary, with residents providing information, cookies or simply a friendly hello, and fraternities inviting their resident partners to events or offering occasional assistance. The Holmes-Foster neighborhood conducts a welcome walk and block party to welcome their student residents. Individuals and groups can adapt these types of relationships in any neighborhood shared by residents and students.
State College borough, Penn State, the Downtown Improvement District and neighborhood associations offer an opportunity for community members and students to interact informally at the annual Living in One Neighborhood Bash. This year it will be held from 6-10 p.m. Aug. 29 on the 100 and 200 blocks of South Allen Street. A community resource fair, LION Bash will have more than 50 interactive stations where local organizations and students can learn about each other.
Students take initiative in building community relationships, too. Annually they invite our neighborhoods to identify outdoor tasks with which they can help, providing many hours of volunteer service. A number of students regularly volunteer for Discovery Space and other nonprofit organizations, and United Way of America has recognized the Penn State Student United Way as a national model.
As young people, most students are still learning to develop good judgment and make sound decisions. When their actions occasionally result in unforeseen consequences, we can provide guidance and a safe environment beyond the campus, helping them mature and grow in their roles as community members.
We should celebrate the students living in State College. In many ways they are our community’s reason for being, and they are substantial contributors to our economy. It’s a privilege to be able to live side-by-side with them with mutual respect.
Ideally, some of today’s students will remain or return to Happy Valley as tomorrow’s residents, working and raising families. Then it will be their turn to strive to integrate students into their community.
The above op-ed was submitted by the State College Coalition of Neighborhood Associations.