Committed to developing tomorrow’s leaders today, Wittenberg University sent 10 students to this year’s Propel Ohio 2017 summit. Propel Ohio, a leadership program promoting civic engagement and inspiring undergraduate students to grow into civic leaders in Ohio, took place from 9 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. at the University of Akron’s Quaker Station on Nov. 17.
Students attending included Caitlin Cahoon, class of 2018, from Columbus, Ohio; Lizzie McNeill, class of 2018, from Clinton, Ohio; Annie Carroll, class of 2019, from Mason, Ohio; Corina Cleveland, class of 2019, from Hilliard, Ohio; Jack Hollinshead, class of 2021, from Highland Heights, Ohio; Ethan Hughes, class of 2020, from Cincinnati, Ohio; Dorian Hunter, class of 2019, from Springfield, Ohio; Sam Strich, class of 2018, from Indianapolis, Ind.; Gabrielle Szydlowski, class of 2020, from Twinsburg, Ohio; and Christina Thompson, class of 2021, from Mainesville, Ohio.
The Propel Ohio program includes a one-day statewide conference in the fall and five regional gatherings in the winter and spring. Wittenberg will host one of the regional gatherings on Friday, Feb. 23.
During this year's summit, college students discussed issues that affect childhood poverty, including food security, inequities in education and homelessness. Propel Ohio also featured an internship fair, where students connected with Ohio-based organizations that are tackling childhood poverty.
“I attended the conference as a student leader, sat in on two presentations on childhood poverty and attended the career/internship fair,” said Hughes, a political science major, who is the president of the Tiger Pep Band at Wittenberg. “In these breakout sessions, we discussed the contributing factors relating to childhood poverty. Specifically, we discussed the opioid epidemic and redlining. I most enjoyed learning more about the topic and relating it to my experiences growing up in poverty. This conference opened my eyes to the fact that I wasn’t the only kid going through this growing up, and it provided an opportunity for me to learn more about myself through the lenses of others.”
“My favorite part of attending Propel Ohio was learning about how so many different aspects of society interact with the causes of childhood poverty,” added Christina Thompson, who is majoring in biochemistry and music.
In addition to U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, other featured speakers included U.S. Sen. Rob Portman; Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund and Wittenberg's 1993 Commencement speaker; and H. Luke Shaefer, co-author of $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America. Together with workshop facilitators, they discussed how college students can tackle these challenges in their own Ohio communities.
“We learned about ways to get civically engaged to combat childhood poverty and talked about initiatives we can be taking in our communities and on our campuses to help aid this growing problem,” said Hollinshead, who is double majoring in financial economics and sports management. “My favorite quote of the day was from Senator Rob Portman, ‘The solutions to our greatest problems aren't going to be found in Washington.’”
Undergraduate students at an Ohio two-year or four-year public or private college, university or regional campus can apply to participate in Propel Ohio. As part of the application process, students were asked to explain in 500 words or less about the challenges of becoming civically engaged for their generation and how they plan to address these barriers and encourage their peers to grow into civic leaders in Ohio.
“I loved having the opportunity to meet so many individuals, both peers and elders, that were concerned with the well-being and future of the children in Ohio. I've lived in Ohio for most of my life, and I want everyone to be able to find success and opportunity here just as I have,” said Cleveland, who is majoring in philosophy and psychology with a minor in justice, law and public policy. She is president of the rugby club, the club sports student coordinator and house manager of the Sigma Kappa Gamma Omega Chapter at Wittenberg.
Propel partners included the Office of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, Ohio Campus Compact, Corporation for National and Community Service, Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing, Ohio United Way, Children’s Hunger Alliance of Akron, Akron Children’s Hospital, Ohio Alliance of Boys and Girls Clubs, GAR Foundation, the Akron Community Foundation, Greater Akron Chamber and the Cleveland Clinic.