Connecting Students with Local Communities
Last summer, three internships were facilitated through Ohio University’s Center for Campus and Community Engagement with the intent to link students with Baileys Trail System projects. According to Ohio University’s website, the Center for Campus and Community Engagement “connects students, faculty, staff, and communities (from local to global) to create and maintain mutually beneficial academic, research, and service partnerships that foster resilient communities and life-long engaged citizens.” Internship opportunities in local communities are one of the most successful ways by which the goals set by the CCCE are achieved. The three student interns were supervised by either Dan Vorisek of Rural Action or Dawn McCarthy of the Wayne National Forest, in order to create a lasting impact on the students, the trails, and the community.
Alli Mancz, a senior studying English and Environmental Studies, completed her internship with the Wayne National Forest alongside Dawn McCarthy, who emphasizes, “While many partners have been working to develop the infrastructure and organization needed to create social and economic development, we were aware of the need to start promoting the Baileys, and we wanted to start telling the stories through the lens of each of our partners and through the community.” Alli’s central task was to write blogs for the Baileys Trail System website, with a focus on telling the story of the trails through the community, partners, and sponsors. She also assisted in organizational planning for the newly-formed Outdoor Recreation Council of Appalachia (ORCA), the council of governments that manages the Baileys Trail System. In addition to her writing, Alli used her editing and design skills to help launch the Baileys website, while maintaining communication with active partners. Impressively, after the first two blog posts were published, there was a significant increase in website sessions–numbers skyrocketed by over 30%.
Hannah Wintucky and Vlad Kovalevsky, two graduate students in Communication and Development Studies at Ohio University, were partnered with Rural Action and Ohio’s Winding Road to promote growth and raise community awareness of the Baileys Trail System. As expressed by their supervisor, Dan Vorisek, Rural Action’s mission is “building resilient Appalachian communities through locally-based and inclusive sustainable development initiatives.” Hannah and Vlad were tasked with three priorities to help grow the trails: communication, community engagement, and fostering partnerships. They set out to create marketing and communication materials for the Baileys, nurture the relationship between the local Appalachian community and trail system partners, and to forge relationships between Ohio University students and outside organizations. Hannah’s created materials on outdoor recreation, including a survey on outdoor tourism trends in the time of COVID-19, gathering information that would later be used by the Baileys managers for planning and marketing. During Vlad’s time with the Baileys, he devised a comprehensive marketing plan for the use of the trails by conducting research on similar projects and the opinions of outdoor recreationists.
Internship opportunities provided by Ohio University’s Center for Campus and Community Engagement break down barriers between the student population and surrounding communities. These enriching experiences expose students to the greater community of which they are a part and provide them with goal-oriented projects that better both the region and the students themselves. These community-based internships are a significant tool for the Baileys Trail System, as they create publicity, encourage new sponsors, and build bridges from the university to the community, connected through trails.
To learn more about opportunities that place students with projects in local communities, visit Ohio University’s Center for Campus and Community Engagement website. Be sure to follow the Baileys Trail System on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Written by Alexis Medley