Despite its relative newness on campus (less than a year in existence), the Youth Engagement Project (YEP) has been able to attract Binghamton University student participation in droves—a testament to our students’ civic-mindedness and the worthiness of the cause. In this first year alone, over 300 Binghamton University students, staff and faculty, willing to lend their skills and expertise to the project, signed up for our e-mail listserv and 78 Binghamton University students directly worked with local youth on projects aimed at benefitting the community.
Binghamton U. students from the Hinman Production Company working with Citizen U
In April, YEP’s AmeriCorps VISTA, Pat Madej, recruited students from HinmanProduction Company, a campus theater group made up of Hinman College students, to volunteer and assist Citizen U with a community project combining theater arts and childhood obesity prevention. The project, which grew from a grant received by Citizen U, enabled the students to write and perform two plays for 85 second grade students at Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School in Binghamton.
Citizen U students performing and working with local children
The plays, written as humorous accounts of the difference between children who exercise and eat healthy and those who don’t, were part of an initiative called the “Citizen U STEPS Challenge” to prevent childhood obesity and raise awareness of healthier lifestyle options for local children. With the help of the Binghamton University volunteers, the Citizen U students were able to craft a performance which effectively communicated their message and was entertaining and engaging for the elementary school children. (News coverage of the event)
Following the success of this event, plans for YEP’s biggest endeavor of the year began to unfold. Pat Madej and two Resident Assistants (RAs) from Hinman College conceived of and spearheaded two events which would raise awareness of the issues faced by local youth while obtaining funds for them to implement new community improvement projects.
Dance For Downtown
The first event, Dance For Downtown, was organized by RA Mel McCullough and YEP. Held in the Binghamton University Union, the event showcased several student acts and honored the local high school students in Citizen U for their important work in the community. Over 100 members of the community attended the event and many volunteers were recruited to help with future YEP projects. The event for Citizen U raised over $200 which went towards a new project for the Binghamton Zoo at Ross Park.
This time with the help of RA Margarita Kraynova YEP organized a volunteer project at the Zoo in which Citizen U and BU students helped renovate one of the Triple Cities’ historic George F. Johnson carousels. These carousels stand as important landmarks for residents of the community whose parents and grandparents worked at Endicott-Johnson Shoe Company during the first half of the twentieth century. Knowing this history, Citizen U and the Binghamton University students were thrilled to be able to leave their mark and improve part of where they called home. Those involved in the project volunteered their Saturday morning to help scrape and paint the carousel to prepare it for the coming season.
BU and Citizen U students working on the Ross Park Zoo Carousel
While it has only existed for a year, YEP has produced many projects which have affected the lives of the Citizen U and BU students in positive ways. To learn more about the project or to get involved, keep an eye on our website and follow our Youth Engagement VISTA on Twitter for more pictures and updates!