Penguinnovation Required for a New Youngstown


By Jillian Smith

Welcome fellow YSU Penguins! It is our third complete week of school, and hopefully, you have had a chance to get a taste of what our university has to offer. Maybe you went to the Duquesne game, climbed the rock wall or attempted to fight off the existential dread of not knowing what life is because you sat in on a Philosophy Club meeting.

As many upperclassmen will tell you, getting involved in campus life is one of the greatest opportunities you will have as a student. While I would completely agree with that sentiment, I’d also like to propose another way for you to get involved as you acclimate to the world of Youngstown State University.

I encourage you to dive deeply, passionately, and creatively into one of the greatest laboratories of human innovation, a city in the midst of a comeback.

Your presence at YSU presents a unique opportunity to be a part of a story in the history of humankind that is remarkable. Youngstown is a city in transition, and YSU students are an essential component of that transition being successful.

Perhaps you have become aware of some of our successes. In 2015, the Youngstown Business Incubator was named the best university-affiliated incubator in the world.

This past summer, YSU was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts’ grant to implement public art throughout the downtown area.

The Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation has led one of the city’s most innovative neighborhood stabilization efforts called The Taft Promise Neighborhood. This partnership provides community services through the Taft Elementary school to surrounding residents.

However, Youngstown remains in critical condition with 30 percent poverty rate and roughly 3,000 abandoned homes. YSU students can serve as major contributors in city revitalization. If you want to be a part of those successes, here is how you can help:

  1. Participate in a workday:

The Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation hosts community workdays most Saturday mornings, during which they board up windows and clear brush from abandoned homes. There is even a student group devoted to assisting in the workdays, YSUScape. You can contact YSUScape President Nick Chretien for details.

  1. Visit local businesses:

As a key market demographic, we students can support local business owners who are making our city more livable by providing the amenities for a creative class. These same business owners are also actively involved in making the city better itself by forming groups such as the Downtown Youngstown Partnership. The partnership is responsible for putting public art onto abandoned buildings, providing resources to small-business owners and implementing a downtown vision and action plan.

  1. Implement a research or service project:

As a student, you have an incredible amount of resources, from professors to research grants to a ready cadre of volunteers. YSU’s role as an urban research university allows for these resources to be directly invested. Have an exercise science question? Apply it to participation rates of urban neighborhoods surrounding Youngstown. Want to study voter engagement? Apply it to a broader capstone project on political participation in a place like Youngstown. Want to get a better understanding of chemical interactions? Make a proposal centered on the chemical interactions of pollutants in the Mahoning River. We can actively engage in researching some of the problems and questions living in a city like Youngstown raises.

As the Sherry Linkon, author of Steeltown USA, once said, Youngstown’s story is America’s story.

We are a city comprised of immigrants who made a life for their families and the infrastructure that built our nation. Post-industrialism has changed the making game for us, and we as students now have the opportunity to innovate and create, not in steel and rubber, but in problem-solving, bold thinking, and the ingenuity only a Penguin can have.