Pitt-Johnstown Launches Long-term Community Collaboration in Moxham

Natalie Bombatch

posted September 19, 2014

To read The Tribune-Democrat's article about this press release - "Pitt-Johnstown Commits to Strengthen Moxham Neighborhood," click here.

The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown is pleased to announce that the University is partnering with a number of community associations and other entities to work toward strengthening our community with a focus on the Moxham area of Johnstown. Pitt-Johnstown is excited to join the many groups, such as the Moxham Renaissance and the Russell House, who have been working very diligently to make significant strides in improving the safety and wellbeing of people in the area.

This collaboration arose out of the University’s recently completed strategic plan which put as a principal goal and focus that Pitt-Johnstown will make progress toward sustaining and enhancing programs that have a positive community impact.

Despite having just been announced, Pitt-Johnstown has already undertaken several steps toward its goal to improve community impact. During freshmen orientation, University President Jem Spectar and members of the Student Affairs staff also rolled up their sleeves and helped students mow grass, remove weeds, stain the playground's signature wooden structures, and spread mulch at the Village Street (Woodland) Playground. The Russell House and Park Avenue Playground were also service destinations in Moxham, which is the neighborhood where Pitt-Johnstown established roots prior to moving to its current Richland Township campus.

"We are very proud of the more than 300 students who have dedicated more than 1,000 community service hours to transform and revitalize the Village Street (Woodland) Playground," said Dr. Shawn Brooks, Pitt-Johnstown Vice President for Student Affairs and Athletics. "They were delighted with the opportunity to become involved with the Moxham community, and they are looking forward to additional opportunities to continue performing community service in that section of the City."

To continue this collaboration in the coming months and years, several initiatives have been formed, including working with afterschool programs to help young people succeed in school, student mentoring, and ongoing efforts to reduce crime and improve safety. We look forward to working with agencies like Goodwill Industries of the Conemaugh Valley and New Day for volunteer efforts, working to reduce blight, and to obtain internships for our students.

Tom Oldham, a long-time home owner and resident of Moxham, had this to say about the University's plans: "I am excited to hear about Pitt-Johnstown's commitment to the neighborhood. There are many organizations but only one 'Moxham Community'; I think it's fantastic that Pitt-Johnstown is getting involved."

"The City is looking forward to working with Pitt-Johnstown throughout the Moxham neighborhood. Numerous entities working together to achieve a common goal provides a positive end product," said Melissa Komar, Land Management Coordinator for the City of Johnstown.

Although many projects have been taking place, there is much work to be done. "Our approach is to take the long view. We are commencing a seven-year commitment that will require efforts in establishing partnerships, involving our students, faculty, and staff with the community, and seeking donor support,” said Dr. Jem Spectar, President of Pitt-Johnstown. “We want to work with the neighborhood-based organizations that are already doing great work in Moxham to bring new life to the place where our institution established its roots on Cypress Avenue. We owe a debt of gratitude to the people of that area, and an obligation to pay it forward.”

The University will continue the rollout of Moxham Community Revival Partnership activities next week with the signature “Pitt-Johnstown @ Your Service,” an extensive community service initiative that began in 2009. Students, faculty, staff, and community members will gather to finish the Village Street (Woodland) Playground project from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, September 24. Following their work, Pitt-Johnstown will host a picnic to thank the volunteers for their hard work.

Linda Thompson, president of the Johnstown Area Regional Industries (JARI), commented, “Pitt-Johnstown is leading real world collaboration with key groups in the Moxham neighborhood. JARI is pleased to offer support for this initiative and will work with the City, the Johnstown Redevelopment Authority, and others to assist in the removal of blight and the attraction of new investment in conjunction with this effort.”

Founded in 1927, Pitt-Johnstown is located in the Laurel Highlands of Western Pennsylvania and is the first and largest regional campus of the University of Pittsburgh. Pitt-Johnstown is the regional leader, educating for the RealWorld. The distinctive combination of our people, programs, and place results in exceptional performance in preparing students for career and professional success. Pitt-Johnstown is recognized by the Princeton Review as a “Best in the Northeast” college, by G.I. Jobs as a “Military Friendly School,” and by Pennsylvania Business Central as a "Top 100 Organization.” Additionally, Pitt-Johnstown has been presented with The Seven Seals Award by the US Department of Defense’s office of Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR).