Podcast Episode 3: Community-Ready Skills

Transcript for Podcast Episode 3: Community-Ready Skills

Larry Berger: Welcome to the Readiness Institute at Penn State podcast. This is Larry Berger at the studios of SLB Radio Productions in Pittsburgh along with Justin Aglio and Emma Hance. Justin is senior director of The Readiness Institute at Penn State, and Emma is the institute’s program manager. Justin, can you tell us a bit about the Readiness Institute?

Justin Aglio: Absolutely. So, the Readiness Institute at Penn State is a Penn State outreach initiative, and the mission of the Readiness Institute is to enable education, industry, and community partners to coordinate, collaborate, and create experiences for learners to achieve community and future readiness.

Larry Berger: In a few minutes, you’ll hear from teens reflecting on Readiness Institute programs as well as their goals and dreams for the future. First, let’s focus on one Readiness Institute component, namely community readiness skills. Emma, can you talk a bit about why community readiness skills are important and what they are?

Emma Hance: People who are community ready are those who are adaptable. They’re invested in the well being of their communities. They’re committed to diversity across a variety of metrics, and, most importantly, they’re willing to show up for other members of their community.

Larry Berger: When you say, “willing to show up,” that’s more than just the meaning of those words “physically showing up,” right? Is it being thoroughly engaged?

Emma Hance: Yeah. So, it’s not just showing up physically, it’s showing up physically, mentally, and emotionally to support other members of your community in whatever way is needed. Creating a community is really about seeing all sides of a person and valuing all sides of a person and of those around you and making sure that everyone feels safe and as though they belong.

Larry Berger: I think it’s natural to feel curious about adjacencies and other parts of the community. However, I think it’s also, these days, very common to become narrow and only focus on one aspect of things and community readiness really embodies understanding those adjacencies and what’s around you. How does the Readiness Institute help people establish that mindset?

Justin Aglio: Well, first of all, everyone’s involved in the community, individuals, organizations, and so, at the Readiness Institute, we look at not just working with individuals in communities, but also industry leaders, organizations, educators, we look at community organizations. So, a great example of that is working with an industry like a bank; understanding what they do to give back to the community. One of our learners said, “Wow, I didn’t realize that banks give to communities. They help people get loans for their homes.” That was huge for the learner to understand that it’s not just a place where you put your money. It’s actually a member of that community.

Larry Berger: So, the presence of a bank, in addition to helping people achieve those goals, for example, might lead to the presence of another business being in the community or to certain activities taking place in that community; all the ripple effects of individual actions. Are there some other examples or tips you’d like to share about helping to acquire this community readiness mindset?

Emma Hance: I think one of the things that’s important, especially when we’re talking from a learner perspective, when you think about giving back to the community, a lot of the times we hear about these large gestures, and that can kind of feel like a barrier to entry. Within the program, showing students and advocating to students that it doesn’t need to be something big, just showing up, helping out, even small actions can have big impact.

Larry Berger: Can you give some examples of small actions that make a huge difference?

Emma Hance: We visited a community garden in the Hill District, Sunny’s Community Garden, and it was in the middle of the season. The garden was already underway. It had been planted. The big stuff had already been done, but the garden is also a community hub, and they, every Monday, have classes for young children from the area. Something that our learners did was they helped to prepare activities and materials for future sessions, but then also, some of the things that had kind of fallen by the wayside over the course of just regular wear and tear, maintenance on a fountain or remulching areas, weeding, making sure that the initial investment that had been made was still able to progress and have an impact.

Larry Berger: So, adopting this mindset that individual actions showing up, as you put it, ends up making a big difference is a component of the Future Readiness Institute, and it ends up being an important skill to have not only a successful life, but I would think, a happy and impactful one.

Justin Aglio: And a great tip, if you want to get involved in your community or have community future readiness skills, people always ask, how do you get involved? Well, actually, people want to get involved. Sometimes there’s no opportunity for them to get involved. Very rarely do I call someone up and say, “Hey, can you help us out in a project in our community?” and they say, “No”. They say, “Yes, I’ve been looking for ways to help out. Can you tell me more about it? If I can’t help out, I’ll know someone that can help out”. So don’t think about how can you get involved in your community. Think about ways to start community initiatives and then contact people, because there are people out there that want to be involved and now you’re giving them this outlet to get involved in the community as well.

Emma Hance: At the Readiness Institute, we’re big proponents of incorporating learner voice. When learners are able to reflect on and clearly articulate the lessons that they’ve learned, you know that the experience was successful and impactful. On that note, let’s hear from a few of our Readiness Institute learners.

Corinn: I’m Corinn. I used to work at a library, and in order to get that job, I volunteered there. I don’t feel like I’ve made a lot of big impacts, but definitely small, maybe just like the library or a conversation or whatever that I didn’t realize affected people.

Russell: My name is Russell. I would like to impact the world around me in a way that leaves a lasting impression and makes a real difference. But it doesn’t necessarily need to be in a way that I get praise and adulation for. It doesn’t need to be public. I want to be able to look back and say, “Okay, I used my skills that I was able to develop over the years and make others lives better.”

Aniya: My name is Aniya. When I’m older, I want to have a hair shop. On certain days, I want to do kids’ hair for free, mainly the kids that are in poverty. Because when you get your hair done, you feel nice. You look pretty. So that’s how I want to give back.

Kailey: My name is Kailey. I want to be able to help improve the lives of children. In particular, like a volunteer daycare center or someplace that’s helping to provide for children who don’t have necessities.

Ronald: My name is Ronald. It has been nice to see that people do care and they’re trying to help people like when we went to Northwestern Bank, they’re helping people get houses.

Morgan: My name is Morgan. I want to impact the world around me through art because I feel like art can inspire every single person.

Alexandria: My name is Alexandria. I really liked the service day that we did. It was really cool going to a community garden and seeing people so passionate about helping the people around them.

Mia: My name is Mia. When we were gardening, I really liked the fact that we were making the garden more beautiful. I would like to do something like creative or in the community to make it a happier place for people because I know that when I see things that I feel that are pretty, it makes me happy. So I want to do that for other people.

Larry Berger: Justin Aglio and Emma Hance, thank you so much for being with us today for the Readiness Institute at Penn State podcast. Emma, how can people learn more about program

Emma Hance: Yeah, if you’re interested in learning more about the Readiness Institute programs, including our summer program and speaker series, among others, check out the Readiness Institute website at readinessinstitute.psu.edu. Or you can follow us on Twitter and Facebook at @riatpennstate.