Laurie Grobman
Professor of English and Women’s Studies
Coordinator, Center for Service Learning and Community-Based Research
Penn State Berks


“A Portrait of Life in Northwest Reading,” a community report, was written by Keanny Rosario and Miguel Colon. It follows the model of a community report from the University of Kansas Community Tool Box, a free, online resource for those working to build healthier communities and bring about social change. As stated on the Toolkit website,

it’s important to understand community — what a community is, and the specific nature of the communities we work in. Anything we do in a community requires us to be familiar with its people, its issues, and its history. Carrying out an intervention or building a coalition are far more likely to be successful if they are informed by the culture of the community and an understanding of the relationships among individuals and groups within it.

Keanny and Miguel, as part of an independent study with me at Penn State Berks in the spring 2017 semester, researched and wrote this community report as part of the Schuylkill River Trail (SRT) Revitalization and Litter Reduction project, a collaborative, multi-partner, community-engaged effort to revitalize a section of the Schuylkill River Trail in northwest Reading and to work with neighborhood residents to reduce littering behavior in the neighborhood. The project is built on cross-cultural collaboration and communication. In both process and outcome, the project aims to bring diverse communities in Reading together to build understanding and to create a beautiful public space.

Concerted work over two years with various community partners ranging from the city’s Department of Public Works (DPW) to the Olivet Boys and Girls Club to the Schuylkill River Greenways led to the creation of the “Friends of the Schuylkill River Trail in Northwest Reading” community group, involving neighborhood residents, local politicians, and Penn State Berks faculty and students.

Overall, the SRT project is ongoing but has already led to several positive outcomes: swaths on both sides of the trail have been cut; vistas to the river have been opened; pathways to the river have been enlarged; and the historic Kissinger’s Lock is visible again. The trail is more secure, safe, clean, and enjoyable. Outcomes also include five litter cleanups since Spring 2016, Boys and Girls Club children’s participation in water testing and litter education with Berks students, engagement with community (Friends of the SRT), and a Nature Festival on the SRT attracting 125 Northwest Reading residents.

Interviews with numerous individuals were an important component of Miguel and Keanny’s research, and I extend my gratitude to them for providing time in their busy schedules to work with Keanny and Miguel. Further, thanks go out to all the members of the FSRT, the city of Reading, my colleagues involved with the project at Penn State Berks, and Michelle Hnath, the program assistant for The Penn State Berks Center for Service Learning and Community-Based Research; Dr. Paul Esqueda, Sr. Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Penn State Berks, and Dr. R. Keith Hillkirk, Chancellor, Penn State Berks.


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A Portrait of Life in Northwest Reading by Penn State Berks is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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