At local youth summit, students contribute ideas

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Around 40 students, mostly from DePauw, but some youth representatives from Ivy Tech as well, spent Sunday afternoon in Greencastle City Hall discussing the relationship between DePauw and the community of Greencastle.

"Greencastle is not exactly the hub for 16 to 22-year-olds," said City Planner Shannon Norman during a brief presentation.

The 2011 Greencastle Youth Engagement Summit was divided into two discussions facilitated by Greencastle representatives like Norman and Mayor Sue Murray. The first hour focused on what the students desired out of the community, and the second focused on how any sort of changes can be made.

"The surprising thing was there are already a lot of things that are available for us, but we just didn't know about them," said freshman Branko Bibic.

The students involved in the summit hailed from places all over the Midwest, but also reached as far as India and Vietnam. The consensus from the discussions was the lack of communication between the campus and the community. One communication strategy suggested was to elect DePauw students to positions on the City Council as a way to bridge the gap between campus and town.

"Communication is definitely the biggest issue," Bibic said, "I'm really, really interested in learning how to get a pilot's license, now. That's something I didn't know I could do around here before."

Murray's goal is to create possibilities for DePauw students in Greencastle.

"We can't recreate Zionsville, Noblesville or an Indianapolis, but we want to answer the needs of almost 2,400 people who come and live for almost nine months of the year," Murray said.

The source of conversations was based on an a survey, conducted throughout January and February, that asked both DePauw and community high school students how they feel about Greencastle. The results indicated that safety is not an issue for the youth in Greencastle, students can get much of what they need on campus, and there is a definite desire for more entertainment and restaurants in the area.

The last portion of the summit was devoted to one question: Why not Greencastle? Murray and the other Greencastle representatives stressed the importance of knowing how to make the community an attractive place to eventually live or raise a family — a question Murray realized may not be reasonable to students.

"We don't have a plethora of opportunities," Murray said. "It's a big world, and it may not be fair to ask DePauw students to come back here right away."

The continuation of this meeting in the future is still up in the air. Murray displayed disappointment at the high school communities for not sending any representatives and noted that many of the DePauw students attending were there because of class requirements.

As of right now, the city is in pursuit of the Indiana Stellar Community Pilot Program grant. Funds from the grant would be used to rejuvenate parts of downtown Greencastle, which was a need expressed during discussions. Murray would not disclose any specific dollar amounts, but noted it would be in the "multiple millions." The recipients of the grant will be announced mid-March.