Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Defending Youngstown from the Ground Up

If you’ve followed the national press stories about Youngstown over the past year, then you’ve already heard some of what this week’s guest has to say. Phil Kidd has become a sort of unofficial spokesperson for the city, talking about Youngstown 2010, the revitalization of downtown, the changing image of this community. On Lincoln Avenue this week, he talks about Defend Youngstown, the Wick Park Revitalization Project, and his plans for his new job as Director of Downtown Events for the City of Youngstown.

One of the things that has impressed me about Phil is his ability to turn ideas into action. I’m excited about all the thoughtful conversation that has developed out of the “thinkers and drinkers” gatherings, but I’m also always a little skeptical about the value of talk. And yet I know from my own experience how easy it is to comment on issues and how much harder it is to go out and do something. But Phil has a philosophy about how to make things happen. He believes that getting people involved means creating opportunities for them to speak and act, and those who have the resources and power to make things happen need to listen to what others want, not just forge ahead on their own. He understands, too, that community engagement is not only a good way to get things done but also a way to transform the community by building relationships and changing attitudes. He also knows how to organize a project, a skill he says he learned in the military.

Phil Kidd is in an interesting and challenging position at this point: he has begun to put his ideas into action, and over the next few years, we will all get to see the results unfold. He’s taking on very public projects, and because he’s advocated a different approach to running a city office and organizing a community project, people are watching. I’m looking forward to seeing him succeed.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Tracing YSU's History

This week, Lincoln Avenue runs the second of its YSU Centennial interviews. In February, I talked with Maag Library Director Paul Kobulnicky about the new University Archives. This week, I’m talking with Dr. Martha Pallante, chair of YSU’s History Department and co-author of Youngstown State University: From YoCo to YSU, written with her colleague Dr. Donna DeBlasio.

Pallante and DeBlasio spent many hours with the materials in the University archive, tracing the history of the university and locating a wide range of photographs to provide a well-illustrated, informative, and entertaining overview of YSU’s formation and mutations over the years. The first image in the book is an almost idyllic photo of Wick Avenue from 1890, almost two decades before the YMCA decided to create the adult education program that would eventually become YSU. In between, you can read about and see photos of everything from early auto mechanics courses to the 1995 national champion football visiting Bill Clinton at the White House. In the interview, Martha tells the true story of how Pete the Penguin became YSU’s mascot, who attended Youngstown College in the early years, and the big picture of -how the university grew and changed.

But the interview just gives you a taste of what the book provides. I’ve always loved all the old photos hanging in Kilcawley Center, and Pallante and DeBlasio’s book publishes many more. If you’re into local history or if you ever attended YSU, you should get a copy of Youngstown State University: From YoCo to YSU.

The photo above, showing a display made by home economics students in 1958, comes from the University Archives. You can view more historical photos of YSU by visiting Maag Library's Digital Collections.