After the 2022 ATP

My time with the ATP has definitely been a learning and growing experience, but here’s the gist:

After our trip to Fayette County in mid-October we were able to produce three deliverables:

  1. The Celebrate Uniontown Proposal.
  2. A list of grants that may be applied for by businesses or the local governments.
  3. An expansion of last years asset map, both in the amount of assets and with the ways in which it is accessible.

The Celebrate Uniontown Proposal as well as the collection of grants are meant to address the concerns of local business owners. The first is a resource for the Uniontown government with recommendations of how to build their relationships with these businesses to foster economic growth in the community as well as community engagement. We specifically touched on a greater social media presence, the establishment of regular meetings with local shop owners to address concerns and discuss goals, and the implementation of an internship program with local high schools to promote civic engagement and job opportunities in local government. Finding grants is easy with a quick Google search, but a more difficult task is narrowing down which ones are applicable to your goals and which ones reviewers will find you a good fit for. Our list of grants is meant to ease this process, and give the local government another opportunity to work with local businesses and help interns build skills that will be applicable in their future careers.

Our team added about 30 new assets to our map/list this year after expanding into Uniontown. We found many of these by being present in the town, walking around and paying attention to our surroundings, and by walking into these stores and talking to the owners. The next logical step for next year’s team to further this same expansion is to go back and visit Connellsville, Uniontown, and another in Fayette County (I believe there’s been talk of Brownsville). As a group member who was in charge of reaching out to community members to set up interviews, some people responded to my emails within hours, and some were unreachable after multiple emails and phone calls. It may be important to remember as a researcher that people don’t owe you their trust, so the first few times you ask they may be unwilling to work with you. What we found most successful during our first trip to Fayette County was just walking into stores, explaining who we are, and asking if they’d be willing to talk with us for a short interview. Our physical presence helped community members understand that we were invested in the future of the County, unlike other researchers and politicians that have come and gone before us. Compared to the response (or lack thereof) I received trying to schedule interviews, the amount of people who were willing to talk to us was really surprising. The calling and the emailing are not a moot point, but I want to assure future groups that community members will want to talk to you, and they will want to help you help their community.

One thing I would love to see addressed by future groups was brought up by the Connellsville City Planner, Vern Ohler. I had the pleasure of sitting with him at our roundtable discussion at the Connellsville Canteen on that mid-October trip, and he was extremely excited about the economic potential of a new micro-resort that is in the process of being built along the Youghiogheny River that runs through town. Even is future ATP groups keep an eye and ear out for the future of this resort, Mr. Ohler’s passion seems to be increasing tourism in the area, especially among younger travelers, as a means of economic growth, so providing more deliverables to work on these goals could be a meaningful mission for future years’ groups.

The opportunity to work with students and staff outside of my field of study has been an experience like no other in my academic career. This class requests a lot from you, but for students interested in building skills in research group work, and time management, I cannot recommend it enough. There will be bumps along the road but the relationships and skills you build and work you complete are all worth it. Thank you to the faculty and my new friends for making this semester so meaningful!   

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