Bill Strickland’s challenge: Invest in Meadville community

President and CEO of Manchester Craftsman’s Guild and Bidwell Training Center Bill Strickland visited our campus on Jan. 30, 2012. Now, I’ve been following Mr. Strickland for a while, and I can say that this is an impressive man. But before I go too deep, let me provide you all with a little bit of information on what Mr. Strickland does.

Bill Strickland is a Pittsburgh native who grew up in one of the toughest neighborhoods in the city, Manchester. Throughout his grade school, he wasn’t the best student; he just did what needed to be done. In high school, Strickland found a mentor by the name of Mr. Ross who was an art teacher at his high school. Mr. Ross took Strickland under his wing, mentoring him, and as Mr. Ross decided to leave he made sure he set up Strickland for success, pushing him to apply to the University of Pittsburgh. The University of Pittsburgh accepted Strickland, but only on probation. In the end, however, he graduated cum laude.

Currently, Strickland leads two organizations that are passionate about the betterment of the community. Manchester Craftsman’s Guild focuses on arts programming and provides the students that attend with a beautiful environment to learn and grow. The Bidwell Training Center provides the people of the community that are older, and society has seemed to given them a hard time to come and get training in the culinary arts, carpentry, and a multitude of other trades. Both organizations focus on bringing disadvantaged and at-risk youth to the centers to become involved and productive citizens.

In his talk, Strickland tasked the Allegheny and Meadville community. Strickland urged the community to build one of the centers like the Manchester Craftsman’s Guild to solve the problems we face. But, how do we get this done? Where can the money come from? Who can build such a place in Meadville?

It’s safe to say that Mr. Strickland got me thinking. If someone like him could just build a center in Pittsburgh, why can’t it happen here? I’m not sure how to answer the aforementioned questions at all but I do know that it’s going to take an army. That army starts with the students of this very institution. Students here forget that they are a part of the Meadville and Crawford County community. With 15.8 percent of the 88,740 individuals living in Crawford County below the poverty line, Allegheny students need to step up. I can already hear students say, “I go to Service Saturday. I’m helping out.”

This goes beyond a Service Saturday or Make A Difference Day.

Students of this campus need to become more active in the community and start to better understand everything around us. Come on, people. Students need to understand not just what’s on the hill but what’s around it. We can’t continue to be selfish. We must act and do something. Now, I’m not sure what that something is, that’s for you to decide but I know it needs to happen. If you’re not involved in a community in which you’re spending most of your year in, there’s a problem with that.