Volume 3: December 2010

New Bonner Site: Finding a Place at Forest Green

written by Emma Dosch ’12

Children from Forest Green pose with a sunflower they grew in their community garden.

Forest Green Estates is a Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funded housing development for low-income families. HUD is a government program designed to provide affordable housing in strong, sustainable, and inclusive communities. HUD is most commonly known in the Meadville area through the work of the Meadville Housing Authority. There are currently 100 families living at Forest Green Estates and over half of these residents are children. I was selected to serve as the new Bonner Leader at Forest Green Estates to build a partnership with this often overlooked neighborhood. Many of the youth and children here are considered “at risk” and most families are struggling with a presence of poverty in the lives. Unlike Gill Village or Fairview-Fairmont, Allegheny College has not had a sustained presence at Forest Green, and outreach programs have been intermittent for as long as most residents can remember. Working at Forest Green has satisfied the Bonner Program’s goal of placing an Allegheny College student at each of the low-income housing neighborhoods in Meadville.

Over the summer, I focused on establishing relationships and trust between Forest Green residents and Allegheny students. I embarked upon an earnest pursuit of learning the residents’ names and worked hard to make myself accessible to the residents needs, interests and friendships. On August 6th, I organized a neighborhood barbecue that allowed residents to come together to eat, talk, and share homemade dishes. Throughout the summer, I was constantly assessing the community to understand what programming was most needed. To help approach the needs and interests of this community, I sought out resources at Allegheny College and within Meadville. This included support from ACCEL, the Rags to Riches project, and the Bonner community. The daily activities that I organized for the children at Forest Green Estates included outdoor games, arts and crafts, gardening, bike trips on the Ernst Trail, and swimming at Woodcock Dam. I feel good about the work I did this summer because I know that the social and organizational connections I forged will be built upon in order to continue community outreach programs over the coming school years and summers.

I have continued to work with the Forest Green community this fall, bringing in America Reads tutors and implementing a community mural project. After studying abroad in Kenya this spring, I plan to continue building upon Forest Green’s social potential during my last two years at Allegheny.