YSU Students Work on Ways to Improve Youngstown

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Civic Innovation Transforming Youngstown Internship Program recently kicked off its second program year with a larger group of students.

The CITY Internship Program is a collaboration between Youngstown State University and the Economic Action Group. The interns are sorted into three different city and county departments with mentors to brainstorm ways to better the community.

Eight students were selected to participate in the internship program last year. This year, there are 12. The program divides the interns into three groups of four and partners them with the city’s Community Planning & Economic Development Department, Engineering & Construction Department or the Healthy Community Partnership. 

Daniel Bancroft, program manager of the Economic Action Group, said the interns are given some of the community’s most challenging problems. Over the course of eight weeks, the interns will gather data, identify the nuances, look at work that has been done and develop possible solutions.

“They have a lot of freedom and independence. [They get] to take their own majors, focuses and skill sets to solve issues like healthy food accessibility, creating a more engaging community development department and addressing sidewalk conditions in the city,” Bancroft said. 

The program is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, which provides a paid internship opportunity for the YSU students. This also benefits the city by getting additional help and various perspectives from students without costing the city anything, according to Gianna Marinucci, site supervisor for the Economic Action Group. 

The CITY Internship Program students toured downtown Youngstown during their first week. (Photo courtesy of Nicholas Chretien)

“[The interns] are getting exposed to a lot of different places and opportunities in Youngstown they wouldn’t get from just being a YSU student,” Marinucci said. “They’re getting real work experience. They get to work with professionals in the community. They get really open-ended projects to … problem solve together.”

At the end of their eight weeks, each group will present their findings and potential solutions for the problems they were given. Marinucci said the students jumped into their work and are growing beyond expectations.

“This group became so close in that first week. It was really awesome to see,” Marinucci said. “They’re actually all talking about how they can use each other’s projects to help better each other’s projects. We’re really excited to see what they’re going to do this year.”

One group is surveying conditions of sidewalks across a few wards in the city. Dominic Adams, an intern, said he wants to serve more in the community and was made aware of this internship through his professors. 

“I have worked in social programs before, but I wanted to do more community outreach. I’ve done some governmental work, but I wanted to dip my toes in the water,” Adams said. “I’ve already learned a lot of team skills that I wouldn’t have [learned] otherwise.”

Interns Thomas Hunydai and Nathan Gostey are tasked with addressing the lack of healthful food options in the Youngstown area. For them, the internship provides an opportunity outside the classroom to collaborate with peers and community professionals to solve real community needs.

The last group is working on plans to help small businesses be sustainable and develop a sense of community in Youngstown. Grace Persing and Aaliyah Jackson want to create an environment for small businesses to grow and then give back to the community.

“I hope we’re able to create something that can actually help the city,” Persing said. “I’ve lived here my whole life, and I would just love to help heal this community.”

Pictured at top: From food accessibility to sidewalks, YSU students are assisting city leaders in addressing Youngstown’s greatest needs.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.