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Fitz Center for Leadership in Community

Dayton Civic Scholars build strong neighborhood school community with senior capstone project

By 2020 Cohort, Dayton Civic Scholars

Over the past two years, the 2020 Dayton Civic Scholars have worked on a capstone project with the West Dayton Strong after-school program.

This program serves the Desoto Bass neighborhood kids with after-school care, meals, summer programs and a huge emphasis on science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM) for a culturally relevant education. Our partnership with this program began in our junior year when we were first introduced to the founder of the program, Amaha Selassi. Through continued conversations between him, other WDS leaders and students in the program, we decided that working with them would be the perfect fit for our cohort.

West Dayton Strong wanted help taking their curriculum to the next level and desired that the focus of our project would be around teaching students about the neighborhood narrative and elevating their STEAM lab into a makerspace for children to be able to explore, create and learn about various STEAM topics. After accessing the individual skills and interests within our cohort, we broke our 13 person cohort into 4 teams - Games, Field Trips, Playground and STEAM Lab.

Due to the COVID-19 we were not able to fully finish each of our projects, but we are optimistic that the seniors who will be taking a 5th year to earn their degrees will be able to fully implement our deliverables in the fall.

The Games Group emphasized teaching students about the neighborhood narrative through a deck of cards and a monopoly board. On each card we shared the story of a historical figure from West Dayton and the monopoly board emphasized places that were from the Desoto Bass neighborhood and Greater Dayton Area. Fortunately we were able to make all of these products, but the last part of the project yet to be completed is to drop off the games during one of the after-school sessions and teach the kids how to play.

The Field Trips Group aimed to take the students outside of their neighborhood and show the students about some of the fascinating places around Dayton. Although we were not able to take the students on the final field trip, we were luckily able to take them to both the Airforce Museum and TechFest at Sinclair Community College. Both field trips were a large success and gave the school children an opportunity to learn about a variety of STEAM related topics.

The Playground Group noticed that the parks within the neighborhood were completely abandoned and were missing almost all of their swings. We decided to invest some time and energy into these parks by putting a fresh coat of paint on the structures, adding a variety of swings, cleaning up trash that was left on the playground and removing all of the weeds. Being out in the community provided a great opportunity for our cohort to build relationships with the community and helped establish trust between our group and the neighborhood. The last improvement that we hope to make is adding a seesaw to the playground.

The STEAM Lab Group was tasked with transforming a one bedroom apartment into a makerspace. This was the largest and most costly part of our entire project because of the variety of supplies we needed to execute this. Unfortunately, we were only able to design the space, create posters for the room and establish a purchasing list of all of the necessary items we need for completion. It has been determined that we will not be able to buy these products or implement our plans until next year.

Overall, this has been an amazing experience for our cohort. We have learned a lot about the Desoto Bass community. We were privileged with the opportunity to work with innovative leaders and lively children from West Dayton Strong. This project could not have been executed without the support of the Fitz Center for Leadership in Community, especially Karlos Marshall, Eva Schuller and Hunter Phillips Goodman. We were saddened that we were not able to see all of our projects come to fruition this semester, but we are confident that we will be able to accomplish the rest of our project in the Fall 2020 semester.

Our 2020 Cohort Members are:

  • Matthew Cornell
  • Jillian DeWitt
  • Blaise Gassman
  • Shea Heath
  • Ben Holtzmann
  • Jennifer Hoody
  • Hannah Kratofil
  • Hannah Lucas
  • Christopher McMaster
  • Adam Miesle
  • Delali Nenonene
  • Michelle Smith
  • Tess Sweeny

Learn more about the Dayton Civic Scholars.

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