On March 13, the students in one of the Spanish courses offered in the Department of Modern Languages had class at the local coffee shop, Beans on Broad, in downtown Grove City. This may sound rather unconventional for a Spanish class, but it was actually the most appropriate thing to do, considering the topic.
In this course, students are looking at the origin and evolution of the idea of public space through history and across different cultures. Students have learned about the boulevard and its evolution into “Main Street,” which is a product of many cultures over time but is used most in cities with British original influence. Pennsylvania has British origins, from the days of the colonies, and thus most of its cities have a prominent Main Street. This space is usually used as public space, wherein the people of the community can talk, sell, buy, share ideas and materials, go about official business, govern, as well as go to church. In short, Main Street is a space that unites all aspects of civilized life in community.
On the very street about which the students are learning, they met up with Lisa Pritchard, the former manager of Grove City’s Main Street revitalization project and the co-owner of b’gifted, a unique gift shop located on Broad Street. Lisa told students about how much of Broad Street and some of the surrounding area was reconstructed in the early 2000s, how it continues to change, and the amount of effort it takes to keep downtown Grove City beautiful and active. Lisa said that the committee and the community applied for state and federal funding and redid the sidewalks, created parking spaces, put up better signs, beautified the storefronts of many buildings, started some new businesses, and helped to keep the all businesses running by providing training in bookkeeping and marketing.
There was particular emphasis on art in this revitalization process. The community brought in painters, designers, art students, and sculptors, and sometimes did hands-on art themselves. They painted two huge murals and put up many sculptures, creatively using the latter to help signify nearby parking space for visitors. None of this would have been possible without the help of countless members of the Grove City community; from the smallest primary school kid to the grandmother in assisted living – all sorts had a hand in this project. It also involved the generosity of many folks who donated money to make Grove City more beautiful and to make its quality of life higher.
Dr. Julio Quintero, who teaches the class, believes that “creating ties between the College and the community is essential for active, life-long learning. As students learn about this issue in English and use Spanish to discuss and compare Main Street with other forms of public space in Europe and Latin America, language learning becomes a tool for awareness and involvement.”
Thus, students learned a great deal from Lisa – not only about the design of the revitalization project, but also about how students can support and volunteer in their local community, wherever they happen to live. Students may even receive class credit for their involvement and participation in Grove City or their local communities’ revitalization projects.