Allegheny Students and Wesbury Residents Collaborate on Meadville Project
There is a long standing relationship between Wesbury and Allegheny College. Many Wesbury residents attend or participate in the wide variety of educational, cultural, and theatrical programs offered at the college. So, when residents were asked if they would be interested in being a part of a student project, they were happy to help.
Recently, students of Professor Elizabeth Weiss Ozorak’s Community Psychology class at Allegheny College completed a project called, “The Meadville Experience: Past and Present.” For the project, 20 students interviewed 21 residents from throughout the Wesbury community about their experiences living in Meadville. The only criteria for interviewees were they had to have lived in Meadville for at least 30 years.
Students and residents discussed contributions and influences that have made Meadville thrive; then and now. The residents, some of whom have lived in Meadville since the 1920’s, shared memories and experiences which the project brings to life. They talked about the days of a vibrant downtown that was once the hub for all shopping needs and a place to socialize. Some discussed moving to Meadville from larger towns and finding a small community with no public transportation at the time, but a great place in which to raise a family or get involved. They shared their thoughts on industry; of large manufacturing employers like Viscos and Talon, Meadville’s “Tool City” moniker, and how the tool and die industry still thrives today in smaller shops and at world famous Channellock and at new high tech electronic manufacturers such as Acutech Aerospace. Residents also expressed their love for the community engagement with educational and artistic opportunities at Allegheny College and the Academy Theatre as well as the local annual events such as the Jaycee’s Halloween Parade and the French Creek Clean-Up that bring people together.
For the project, the students were placed into small groups to do further research based on topics that emerged from the resident interviews. The topics included: Businesses and Industry, Education and Programs for Youth, Physical and Mental Health, Events and Sense of Community, and Infrastructure and Social Capital. As a class requirement, they also had to attend and participate in two community events. Professor Ozorak’s son, Nick, a 2013 Allegheny graduate who moonlights as a videographer, took the student’s outcomes to create a short documentary about Meadville, and recorded the residents as narration for the video.
Upon the course’s completion, the student groups made presentations on their topics to a full house in the Community Room at Cribbs Residential Center. The documentary video was premiered after the student presentations.
The residents were pleased to share their insights on the Meadville community and to learn their stories are archived at www.nwpaheritage.org. NWPaHeritage puts the history of Northwestern Pennsylvania (Crawford and Venango Counties, and the Oil Heritage Region) at your fingertips and includes stories and extended quotations from the resident interviews and more. The documentary video is available to view at the site or by searching “The Meadville Experience: Past and Present,” on YouTube.