EAST LIVERPOOL - Despite the chilly, rainy conditions Saturday afternoon, a group of students from the East Liverpool campus of Kent State University presented a special event honoring local military families in Thompson Park.
The students of Dr. Lydia Rose and her Introduction to Sociology class at KSU-East Liverpool planned the free community event, called "Moving Youth 2 Youth," to coincide with the weekend of Global Youth Service Day, April 20-22 this year. It also served as the class' final course project and an end-of-the-semester celebration before preparing for final exams next week, according to Dr. Rose.
The opening ceremony included a welcome to attendees from the students, before turning the event over to members of the Tri-State Burial Group. The group led attendees in the Pledge of Allegiance before firing off a 21-gun salute to their fallen comrades. East Liverpool Mayor James Swoger said a few words, thanking the KSU students for organizing the picnic and saying how thankful we should always be for the sacrifices made by our veterans and their families.
Army veteran John Henry Martin, a member of the Tri-State Burial Group, and his wife Bernita, enjoyed the picnic. (Photo by Richard Sberna)
Rose asked her students to think of a cause that interests them and then devise a program to address the issue with members of the community. She says the causes included bullying, childhood obesity and what became the central issue of the event, honoring military families.
Rose said that the event was entirely planned and organized by the students, including the choice cause that they wished to bring attention to, selecting and securing the venue for the event, and getting the word out to the public. The students also arranged the fundraising through a silent auction held March 31 to pay for the food that was served free of charge throughout the day, as well as soliciting donations for raffle prizes.
"We wanted something that would bring the community together and involve kids," said Pam Anthony, one of Rose's students who worked signing people in at the event. Her group collaborated with first-graders from LaCroft Elementary School to make patriotic picture frames, which were distributed free to attendees.
"They made this happen out of nothing," Rose said. "They did a lot of work this year in raising awareness of their social issue, as well as gaining support for today's picnic."
Events such as this help to put the skills her students learn into real-world practice, according to Rose. "It's one thing to learn the theory, to understand the data, to recognize it as a social issue, but what can you contribute?" she said. "This is their opportunity to take what they've learned in the class and apply it."
Enjoying the picnic was U.S. Army veteran John Henry Martin, a member of the Tri-State Burial Group, and his wife Bernita, from Wellsville. "I don't think you can thank the veterans enough for their sacrifices, and I think it's wonderful that the young people are honoring them now so that they'll grow up with this mindset of honoring veterans," she said. A Vietnam-era veteran who was stationed at Fort Eustis during the Cuban Missile Crisis, Martin is a retiree of Crucible Steel and a member of American Legion Post 70 in Wellsville.
Dr. Rose said this is the third such event that was planned by her sociology class. The first was held last year for Global Youth Service Day, also in Thompson Park, with childhood obesity as its issue. "They looked at the data, saw what the rates are, what the future projections are, and saw that this is a major social issue our nation is taking on," she said.
The second, this past fall, was in a similar vein. Called C.H.O.W. (Community Health Options and Wellness), youth health and fitness was the central theme. Students went to local schools and spoke about the importance of good nutrition, exercise and making good life choices, culminating in a health rally at Westgate Middle School in December. Rose hopes for a second-annual C.H.O.W. rally this December.
Rose said her students frequently enter into the class project with trepidation, but find that they learn a lot and a gain a sense of fulfillment along the way. "Whether they know it or not at the time, I think in the future, they will know that they are empowered to make change in their community," she said.