The alumni who call Meadville home

On Allegheny College’s website there is a page called, “Meadville is… Home.” For many students it plays the role of a temporary home, but for some alumni Meadville becomes a permanent home.

“I stuck around because I liked the ability to connect with people,” said Lee Scandinaro, ’15. Scandinaro is originally from outside of Pittsburgh and found that Meadville had a small-town vibe that makes life easier to digest. Also, through Allegheny College, Scandinaro found opportunities which made the transition from living in Meadville as a student to becoming a community member easier.

After school, Scandinaro worked for AmeriCorps VISTA. This enabled him to facilitate college students engaging in civic engagement opportunities.

Scandinaro also recalls how the small town can enable people to make change, and see things change quickly.

“So many cool things have happened, and it’s cool to see how things can change quickly.” Scandinaro said.

Scandinaro has noticed changes in Meadville, particularly in the past five years  He has seen more storefronts open up in town and seen the priorities of the community shift.

While Scandinaro is not particularly concerned with new stores opening, he sees this example of rapid change as encouraging and how priorities can shift in a smaller city. According to Scandinaro, this shift has been something encouraging about Meadville.

Julie Wilson is a Communication Arts and Community and Justice Studies professor at Allegheny College. Wilson has also been involved in several aspects of the community, including the 2019 Meadville City Council campaign.

Wilson has advised students on how to get involved in the community, and how to think about it.

“(The) first thing is just to make yourself available and show up,” Wilson said when discussing how students can work to get involved in the local community.

Wilson added that interested students should focus not only on building resumes but also being humans and decentering themselves when working in the community. “What’s so cool about getting involved in Meadville is it takes you out of the constant culture of personal improvement that exists at the college,” Wilson said.

Autumn Vogel, ’15, is another Allegheny alumnus who has become deeply involved in the Meadville community. Vogel currently sits on Meadville City Council and has worked on several projects including as the MyMeadville project coordinator and as the Year of Meadville Organizer for Allegheny’s Year of Meadville theme of 2015-2016.

Like Scandinaro, Vogel is not originally from Meadville, but has resided in the city since graduating.

While Vogel was at Allegheny, she engaged in traditional civic engagement, but found something different during her senior year: a group dedicated to thinking about the kind of community that people would want to live  in and then working towards making that possible.

“There was a different way of thinking, it felt different than other ways of getting involved,” Vogel said.

This group was led by Wilson, and another community member and current Garden Manager for the Carr Hall Garden, Kerstin Ams.

“This group gave way to great community initiatives,” Vogel said.

This allowed Vogel to meet people in town and get involved in more opportunities. Vogel was also involved in the Second Saturday community market and eventually held a job working to organize Allegheny College’s year of Meadville. This allowed Autumn to use college resources to lift up what was going on in town and for Vogel to work on community-focused efforts.

Vogel also stressed the importance of understanding the community you are a part of when doing community work.

“What changed my relationship with Meadville was getting involved in a different way and meeting people where they are at,” Vogel said.

Finding ways to get involved which may not be seen as traditional civic engagement opportunities for students allows for meaningful relationships with community members to be built.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has put a hold on students collaborating with the Meadville community, Vogel did have advice for students seeking opportunities to be involved in the community surrounding Allegheny College. Vogel first mentioned weekly work sessions which occur Mondays at 6:30 p.m. These sessions involve planning for community efforts and working with the activism organization PA United. While these sessions are currently happening online, they provide an opportunity for interested people to get plugged into what is happening on some community organizing efforts.

Similar to Wilson, Vogel stressed the importance of showing up consistently to opportunities. Other than the working sessions, Vogel encouraged students to email her so that she can find them something to do. Vogel’s email is [email protected]

While there is both good and bad in Meadville, Scandinaro drove home that it is the community members who make this town special.

“(The) people who are here are special,” Scandinaro said.