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Fitz Center Propels Ohio

The executive director of Michelle Obama's Let's Move! program will be the keynote speaker Friday, Oct. 14, at a statewide conference at the University of Dayton aimed at connecting college students to public service careers in Ohio.

Debra Eschmeyer, an Ohio native who also serves as senior policy advisor to President Barack Obama for nutrition policy, will address more than 360 students and administrators from 70 Ohio colleges and universities at the “Propel Ohio: Collegiate Leadership Summit 2016.” The event will be 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the University’s River Campus at 1700 S. Patterson Blvd. in Dayton.

As Let’s Move! executive director, Eschmeyer leads Michelle Obama's work to help America raise a healthier generation of kids and ensure that all children have the opportunity for the long, healthy lives they deserve. She also advises on food and nutrition issues beyond Let’s Move!

Co-hosted by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and the University’s Fitz Center for Leadership in Community, the Propel Ohio summit invites college students to work with organizations combatting childhood poverty and associated issues like health and hunger, education, and housing security.

“Ensuring that every child has the opportunity to succeed is a cause that drives me each day in the Senate and I know that, as our state’s future leaders, young people have so much to contribute to the discussion,” Brown said. “This year’s Propel Ohio summit will highlight the commitment, compassion and engagement of our students and connect them with resources they need to implement their ideas to fight childhood poverty and strengthen our communities.”

Propel Ohio is a leadership program that promotes civic engagement and inspires undergraduate students to grow into civic leaders in Ohio. The program features a one-day statewide conference each fall and five regional gatherings during the winter and spring.

Ohio’s two- and four-year public and private colleges and universities were each invited to appoint up to three undergraduate students and one administrator to attend this year’s summit.

The summit will feature discussions with a number of Ohio elected officials and business, community and nonprofit leaders. It will conclude with an internship and research fair where students can learn more about organizations and career opportunities in their communities.

“The conference has a tremendous impact on our campus, community and students by bringing together leaders in public service who address education, health care, economic empowerment, environmental justice and critical aspects of our society impacting children in poverty,” said Hunter Phillips Goodman, Fitz Center executive director. “By uniting voices throughout our state, our students have the opportunity to create innovative solutions and learn from leaders who understand the assets and the challenges we face.”

Three University students who participate in Fitz Center programs are taking leadership roles in the summit. Another 18 students from across the University also will participate in the event.

Maggie Schaller, a senior from West Chester, Ohio, will moderate an elected officials panel featuring Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley ’98; former Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, distinguished research associate at the University; Ohio House Minority Leader Fred Strahorn, D-Dayton; and state Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering.

“These are people who are really good at what they do and are really passionate about doing good work in Ohio,” Schaller said. “The fact that all of them are coming down to the River Campus at the University of Dayton to share their experience with students from all around Ohio is really remarkable. I feel incredibly blessed to be part of that narrative, even in a tiny way.”

Schaller, a human rights studies and political science major, is part of the Fitz Center’s Dayton Civic Scholars program. In 2015, she participated in a Cross-Cultural Summer Immersion in Ranchi and Bangalore, India, through Campus Ministry’s Center for Social Concern.

Carlos Rodriguez, a junior from San Antonio, Texas, will introduce University President Eric F. Spina at the summit. Rodriguez, a psychology and human rights studies major, is a Dayton Civic Scholar and also visited India in summer 2015 through the Center for Social Concern. This past summer he participated in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Malawi Research Practicum on Rights and Development in Malawi, Africa, where he studied the impacts and benefits of nursery school education.

Abby Kowalczyk, a junior from Ann Arbor, Michigan, will deliver the closing remarks. Kowalczyk, an international studies and French major, is part of the Fitz Center’s River Stewards program. She hopes to inspire students to use what they learn at the conference to make a difference in their own communities.

- Dave Larsen, communication coordinator, College of Arts and Sciences

Photo: First Lady Michelle Obama, with Deb Eschmeyer, executive director of "Let's Move!" shows students from "Let's Move!" programs how to use gardening tools during the fall harvest in the White House Kitchen Garden Oct. 6, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

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