Podcast Episode 8: Community Impact

Justin Aglio and Emma Hance of the Readiness Institute at Penn State talk about the importance of being part of a community and making an impact no matter how big or small. Then, teens involved in the Readiness Institute’s Summer Program reflect on their own hopes and experiences regarding those they want to help.

Transcript for Podcast Episode 8: Community Impact

Holden: My main thing is I want to help people. I want to be someone who’s always there if they need my help. Just like this program has helped me and other people have helped me in the past.

Abijah: The way I would like to make an impact on the world around me is through YouTube, by being basically a haven for people that don’t feel that they belong somewhere or they’re not having a good day where they can come.

Yusef: I would want to try and influence people to come together and to be under one roof. A lot of people don’t think that the person next to them goes through the same things or is like them and true, everyone’s different, but I don’t see why that’s a reason to be separate.

Larry Berger: This is Larry Berger at the studios of SLB Radio Productions in Pittsburgh, along with Justin Aglio and Emma Hance of the Readiness Institute at Penn State. In a few minutes we are going to talk a bit about impact, what it means to be future ready and community ready and to have an impact on the world around you. Before we do that, I’d like to turn to Justin with some information to help ground ourselves in what the Readiness Institute is about and what its mission is.

Justin Aglio: Thank you, Larry. At the Readiness Institute at Penn State, we enable education, industry, and community partners to coordinate, collaborate, and create experiences for learners to achieve community and future readiness.

Larry Berger: Now let’s talk about impact. I think most of us want to have impact and a positive impact on the world around us, but that’s hard to break down and actually do, particularly if you are learning and evolving as a teen. How does the Readiness Institute approach impact and help teens get a better sense of how to achieve it?

Emma Hance: I think one of the big things is that through the programming at the Summer Program, every single student learns that every single person can be an agent for positive change. A lot of times we hear about community activists and others who are making positive change, but by the time we hear about them, they’ve established themselves and we see them as fully formed. And it’s really important to recognize that that doesn’t happen overnight. It takes smaller steps that over time create much bigger change. And one of the things that we focus on is our community design challenge. So in week one of the Summer Program, our students learn about the UN Sustainable Development goals and they select a goal that really resonates with them. The thing is, these goals are very broad and can feel out of reach. So you have things like zero hunger, quality education, and you have students who are saying, okay, yeah, that’s a great goal, but how do I get there? And over the course of the program, they work in their groups to identify stakeholders, to identify steps that they can take to make a change in their community, which, yeah, it’s not eliminating hunger on a global scale, but if you’re able to make those steps within your community, it really ripples out and can have a much larger kind of outsized impact.

Larry Berger: So you get to learn that by choosing a particular challenge, an overarching challenge like hunger, if you are able to focus an effort in your community and think future forward in terms of what your effort is going to lead to, you really are helping to further that much broader mission that may seem totally out of reach.

Emma Hance: Exactly.

Larry Berger: That’s one example of how students at the Readiness Institute have approached impact. Justin, is there anything you’d like to add about the notion of impact and how the Readiness Institute helps the students it works with practice having impact and actually delivering on that impact?

Justin Aglio: So we talk a lot about everyone’s ready to make an impact around the world, but who’s willing to make an impact around the world. And you just can’t put your hand up and say, me. You have to give the skills and strategies. So teach students human-centered design thinking skills starting around empathy. Having them work through challenges, having them work through a team, going out into the community and doing community projects by rolling up their sleeves and actually putting their hands in the dirt at a garden in a local community, but understanding the world. What’s happening in the world and how does it affect them and their own local life and what can they do locally to impact the world? And we look at a lot of issues, we bring a lot of experts in to see what’s happening in the world, what’s happening around the communities. But at the end of the day, we want to make sure that students understand that they can impact the world. They don’t have to be thirty-five years old and the CEO of a company, they can impact the world at seventeen years old with their voice, with their social media presence, with their activism in their community. So it’s understanding and giving them the tools and resources to go out and make sure no matter if they’re going to colleges, universities, careers, they can impact the world and they don’t have to wait around and be just consumers of the world, but be producers of impact around the world.

Emma Hance: And that ties into one of the other things that we really focus on over the summer, which is the ability and importance of making good and logical decisions. When you’re making a decision, it takes commitment, and if you’re making change, change takes effort. It’s not something that’s going to happen overnight. You have to be really committed to the work and to making sure that you don’t expect it to happen right away. You’re there, you’re showing up day after day after day and then your effort will inspire those around you and will ripple out to make really impactful change.

Larry Berger: You just heard from Emma Hance and Justin Aglio of the Readiness Institute at Penn State. Now, let’s hear from some of the students that worked with the Readiness Institute about how they feel about impacting the community and the world around us as they work to be community ready and future ready.

My name is Owen. I’m currently working on a group project with a few other people, probing about digital literacy in schools and how that could be improved and how improving digital literacy in schools would improve the lives of not just the students who are getting it, but everyone else who sees the effects of it, like employers and people who are doing volunteer projects.

My name is Khalil. I went to the Pittsburgh Project, Youth Places, and them two places are like places for kids. Basically, you can go for the day and you won’t have to worry about none of the violence, for real. I honestly want to get more kids off the streets. I don’t want so many younger kids looking up to the streets as a way out or thinking that’s the way to live. I want to do entrepreneurship.

I am Lucas. There is a lot of things that engineers can do to help the community, like infrastructure, you know, that’s a huge thing. United States, there’s like a huge infrastructure issue. I think engineering has a huge part in helping us solve that.

Hi, I’m Keyawnee. Definitely with my social work, I want to be with hospice, so I would be with the elderly near their passing time. So I want to stay with them even when I retire. Keep up with the family, stay in touch with them, just help out the elderly community more.

Hello, I’m Shoma. My group is talking about planting trees and saving the environment and then saving the earth, about how we have to stop this much carbon footprint. We have to plant more trees. We can grow more gardens, help people who are starving. That’s one way I would say that I could change the world, but there’s also so many other ways, such as transit and how we can help improve that, especially in the US.

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 activities?

Emma Hance: To learn more about the Readiness Institute at Penn State, check out our website at readinessinstitute.psu.edu and follow us on instagram, facebook and twitter @riatpenn state.