Dayton Civic Scholars: Sustaining the Relationship
They could tell you about a downtown non-profit or two, or even maybe where the best restaurant in the Oregon District is. They have a heart – and mind – for service, and civic engagement is second nature. Who are they? They are University of Dayton’s own Dayton Civic Scholars, and they are on the frontlines to bridge the relationship between the university and the city itself. And, they are building full force.
The Dayton Civic Scholars (DCS) is a scholarship program sponsored by the university’s Social Science Department that falls under the umbrella of the Fitz Center for Leadership in Community. A three-year program, DCS takes up to fifteen students each year as a cohort. Respectively, these cohorts come together starting their sophomore year to learn about the city of Dayton, and the university’s history with the local area.
The program starts with a brief summer orientation that includes team builders, Dayton Dragon games, and information about the city. Each cohort then proceeds to take a mini-course each Friday to gain a foundation in local politics and organizations. Additional mandatory academic classes include “Urban Politics” and “Leadership in Building Communities” to gain more specific knowledge about how cities – specifically, Dayton – function.
In their junior year, they create a capstone project that embodies the cohort’s collective interest as well as the needs of the outside community. For example, the 2014 cohort has regenerated a garden outside Cleveland Elementary. They have used this resource as a vehicle for classes about health, reading comprehension, and basic math skills, among other after-school activities and lessons. Of the program, International Studies major and 2014 cohort member, Shannon Lees, says that, “It’s been a wonderful way to connect with the Dayton community.”
Meanwhile, the 2015 cohort has recently implemented a literacy program aimed at international elementary-aged refugees. Hosted at Fairview Elementary, the cohort plans and executes after-school activities every Friday that hope to improve student academic and social performance. Francis Flannelly, Operations and Supply Management major and 2015 cohort member, says, this capstone project has been, “…the perfect way to give back to a community that has helped shape us all.”
Moreover, semester-long internships are mandatory to the DCS program. These experiences allow for direct hands-on experience with the city. These internships are based on individual interest, and can range from working with the City of Dayton Water Department to helping in a homeless shelter. Marina Locasto, Masters in Public Administration student and graduate assistant in the Fitz Center, says of the internships: “It helps shape the student into a civic leader, which can benefit any community.” Through these experiences, each member has an individual relationship with the city itself.
Dayton Civic Scholars see not just what is, but what could be. They proactively seek and act upon the current resources and potential in the city through enabling the “Learn, Lead, and Serve” mentality the university heralds. It’s not a program. It’s a perspective.
My name is Jack Raisch, and I am a current junior Psychology major (with a concentration in Writing) at the University of Dayton. A native New Yorker, I like to think I say “yes!” to life
(except the times my mom told me to say “no.”). One of
those “yes” moments emerged when I was given the
opportunity to write for Dayton Most Metro.
From this internship, I would love to hone my writing
and explore the electric city of Dayton itself. Dayton
is a hotbed of action with a fluid platform for the exchange
of information, ideas, and interest. Thus, I strive to seek
the people, places, and programs that make that so – and
have a little fun discovering it.”
– Jack Raisch