Katie Peel, Hollie Weidner, Siara Rogers and Conner Elonich
We want you to meet four Vibrant College students from Elkhart County. They are attending Indiana University South Bend. This semester, they are taking Dr. Gail McGuire’s sociology research class. They and their classmates have been studying the vibrancy of Elkhart County. Their work has been both interesting and informative.
The four are Hollie Weidner of Elkhart, Siara Rogers from Goshen, Nappanee’s Katie Peel and Conner Elonich from Elkhart. They are intelligent, conscientious students and the kind of young people you can have a good conversation with.
The group explained the research project to us. The class been conducting in-depth interviews with other college students and alumni who live in or grew up in Elkhart County. They are looking for reasons why these young adults want to stay here or return or move somewhere else. They are also asking questions about the conditions and issues that would influence their decisions.
Additionally, the class used pictures they took to study the culture, social life and environment of places around the county. It has helped them understand the sense of identity people share, the value of family and other facets of living and working here.
The students’ findings are insightful. They believe people of Elkhart County are feeling a stronger sense of pride in where they live. At the same time, there is a desire to have more options of things to do. They have learned how much people in Elkhart County appreciate hard work. They have come to think that the county can do more to show pride in the RV industry as it has “an impact around the world.”
Living in Elkhart County, the students also have opinions of their own. They had to make sure that their ideas did not shade what they were finding out. At the same time, they were comparing and contrasting their personal experiences with the research and found that thought-provoking.
Professor McGuire has been pleased with the diligent effort of the students. She believes that having the opportunity to study Elkhart County, where a concerted effort to improve quality of place is underway, adds significance to what the students are learning.
Volunteers from Elkhart County have spoken to the class throughout the semester. They have presented information about the Vibrant Communities movement as well as specific projects and programs.
Today the students will be doing the presenting. They will be reporting on their projects to a group of Elkhart County residents including those involved with organizing Vibrant Communities and representatives of local governments and businesses.
The projects this class have done are just part of the undertakings of IUSB in Elkhart County. This kind of collaboration has several benefits. Students get real-life projects to work on as they learn. Professors can gather valuable data to analyze and report on. The communities will be getting informed recommendations and proposals about how to improve Elkhart County’s quality of place.
All that and we got to meet some really cool, Vibrant College kids from Elkhart County.