locally owned since 1854

'We want to be involved': Penn State students, community members discuss helping each other

By Laura Hayes

laurahayes@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 2/28/18

For Penn State Harrisburg freshman Madison Heider, Penn State runs in the family.

Her mother works at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. While her family initially wanted her to attend the …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

'We want to be involved': Penn State students, community members discuss helping each other

Posted

For Penn State Harrisburg freshman Madison Heider, Penn State runs in the family.

Her mother works at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. While her family initially wanted her to attend the main campus in State College, Heider said she fell in love with the Harrisburg campus when she visited.

“It’s small enough that it’s a community, but you see different faces every day because there are 5,000 people coming in and out,” Heider said.

She was one of four Penn State students to attend Sunday’s conversation to discuss the relationship between Penn State and the Middletown area. It was the last in the three “Town and Gown Relationships” forums that were suggested by Bruce Humphrey, the interim pastor of the Presbyterian Congregation of Middletown, where the forums took place.

“It was really eye-opening to see that [the community members] want us to help out,” Heider said.

“The thing is, we want to help out. We want to be involved. You just have to ask us,” sophomore Jordan Larkins added.

About 25 people attended the meeting, including Middletown Borough Councilors Dawn Knull and Jenny Miller and borough Human Relations Commissioner Mike Woodworth.

Knull, who was born and raised in Middletown, said that when she was growing up, Middletown was a small community where everyone knew everyone and everything.

“Then you bring in Penn State,” Knull said.

She continued: “A lot of your older generations did not want to see the diversity, did not want to see the growth, did not want to see college kids coming into their little town and turning it into a college town.”

She added, “But we need to. We need to grasp it. We need to embrace it, and we need to move forward with it.”

Some of the residents don’t know what Penn State can offer them, Knull said. She suggested some type of meeting or communication to let community members know what Penn State resources they can access, such as the university’s pool or student volunteers.

Many of the attendees asked the students what it was like to be a student at Penn State Harrisburg or whether students would be interested in religious services or Bible studies on campus.

Humphrey said he heard some international students are surprised when they arrive on campus, believing that Penn State Harrisburg is located in a large city.

“Then they arrive in Middletown and they look around and say, ‘I thought I was moving to a big city with access. Now I find myself on the edge of farmland.’ Are there ways we can make it better for student life?” Humphrey asked.

Larkins grew up in Virginia outside Washington, D.C., where public transportation is every two blocks. Here, she said, students need a car to get to events.

“The campus is pretty close together, but the campus isn’t close to Middletown. … It’s hard to get to the community, and we want to be there,” Larkins said.

Penn State senior Katelan Martinez suggested more bridges or sidewalks to help students access the community.

“But when I came to Middletown, I still enjoyed it because it was so different,” said Martinez, who grew up in New York City. “I always wanted to be by the farmland. You have amazing hiking trails. It’s so beautiful here.”

A bridge over Route 230 from the campus toward Middletown is part of plans for a new Amtrak station that includes an extension of Emaus Street. However, that project has been pushed into the 2020s.

The students said they would use coffee shops (or any restaurants) and convenience stores near campus. Larkins noted that there was a convenience store on campus where students can buy food and toiletries.

“We’ve renovated the campus, so it might isolate us further,” Larkins said.

Heider and Larkins said they went to Middletown two to three times a week to either go grocery shopping or go out to dinner.

Penn State professional writing tutor Dan Morra noted that there was at least 20 to 30 years age difference between students and many of the Middletown residents.

“There’s a finite number of people who want to be involved with young people,” Morra said, adding that he enjoys it which is why he works at the university. “But there are some people who can’t get over that.”

Morra noted that while some Penn State students volunteer in the Middletown community, “I don’t hear the college students saying, ‘Hey, come help us do stuff.’” He asked if residents offered to drive students to the store.

What could Middletown do to help students? Heider agreed with Morra.

There are several good opportunities, she noted, such as a business fair this year to introduce students to local businesses.

Larkins argued that students are often criticized for not helping out in the community, but she believes that they often don’t know those opportunities exist, she said.

While she doesn’t know exactly how the community could help students, Larkins said that it was good that it was being discussed.

“Being helpful isn’t a one-way street,” Heider said.