Faculty, students, and community partners have collaborated in several innovative programs. A recent project, Making a Difference, Where We Are, involved students in challenging forms of research and communication outside classroom and library (even online library) walls. Students had to come up with story ideas and pitch them to Penn State Health St. Joseph. Students received feedback and revised their writing so it would do real work in the world, impacting people’s lives in positive ways. Reciprocally, a large portion of Penn State Health St. Joseph’s required Community Benefits Report was compiled by the students. Through articles, photographs and a video, the Community Benefits Report informs the public about community health programs or events that are sponsored or supported by the hospital to promote health and healing in the greater community.
Many of the Center’s other research- and writing- based partnerships lead to publicly shared collections of local history and oral history. Some of these projects include histories of the local ethnic, racial, and cultural communities. We have partnered with the local branch of the NAACP, the Central Pennsylvania African American Museum (CPAAM) in Reading, the Hispanic Center, and Jewish Federation. Other book projects have documented the history of the Olivet Boys & Girls Club, founded in 1898 as Boys Friendly Club; local Viet Nam veterans’ oral histories; Reading police officers’ oral histories; and the history and stories surrounding the buildings that comprise the City of Reading skyline as seen through the windows of the Pagoda, a local landmark and tourist attraction.
Another program, Environmental Awareness and Community Action Project, is an ongoing service learning project through which anywhere from 35 to 100 students per semester work in teams and in partner with community organizations such as Reading Beautification, Inc., Berks County Parks Department, Nolde Environmental Education Center, Hawk Mountain, and the Schuylkill River Heritage Association. Students research an environmental issue and, depending on the partner organization’s needs, take action through protecting the environment or educating the public. In a sociology class, students study the key concepts of social structure, including inequalities of class, race, gender, and age in the context of education, particularly urban education and work as Penn State Educational Partnership Program (PEPP) Learning Assistants mentoring youth in the Reading School District.