Widener University this year is funding a dozen student and faculty research projects and community initiatives that will directly benefit the city of Chester. The projects are financed by endowed funds established during the university’s record-breaking $65 million Taking the Lead fundraising campaign.

“Contributing to the well-being and vitality of the communities we serve is an integral part of the Widener University mission,” said Dr. Julie Wollman, president of Widener. “The proposals presented for funding address an array of social and sustainability issues that are important to Chester. It’s clear that Widener faculty and students are committed to partnering with organizations in Chester to make a difference in the city.”

This year’s initiatives were funded in the amount of $23,420. The university has provided nearly $60,000 in funding to faculty and students over the three-year history of the community engagement endowed funds. The funds include the Borislow Community-Engaged Faculty Research Fellowship, the Hartford Undergraduate Community-Based Research Award, and the Schmutz Student Civic Engagement Mini-Grants.

Research and initiatives funded include:

  • Dr. Nancy Blank, associate professor of criminal justice; and Dr. Mimi Staulters, associate professor of education, received funding to implement a literacy program for court-adjudicated youth, primarily from Chester, utilizing undergraduate education and criminal justice students as tutors. They will also collect data to assess changes in literacy levels and school attendance among program participants.
  • Dr. Justin Sitron, associate professor of human sexuality studies, received funding for the second phase of a project aimed at reducing the risk of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections among Chester youth. The initiative also includes training Widener undergraduate and graduate students to develop and implement interculturally competent sexuality education.
  • Dr. Nadine McHenry, professor of education, received funding for a project through which Widener faculty will work with teachers at Stetser Elementary School in Chester to develop culturally responsive student teachers through interactive programming and instruction.
  • Dr. Jonathan Akins, assistant professor of engineering, received funding to design and fabricate an apparatus to collect gait and balance measurements for prosthesis users. The study will examine how people with lower extremity limb loss have an increased risk of falling due to impaired balance and gait deficiencies. The study will be conducted with volunteers from the Chester Community Physical Therapy Clinic.
  • Dr. Brett Alvaré, assistant professor of anthropology, received funding to support the second phase of the Chester Community Voices Project. The project is designed to develop an authentic understanding of Chester’s history and present day conditions.
  • Tori Remondelli, a senior mechanical engineering major from Point Pleasant, N.J., who serves as president of the engINE Club, received funding for the club to work with the Chester Planning Department to plan, design and construct segments of the Chester Creek Trail from the DeShong Park to the proposed East Coast Greenway trail.
  • Students in the Magazine Journalism course taught by Sam Starnes received funding to write, edit and publish print and online versions of the second issue of the award-winning Chester Magazine. The second issue builds on the revitalization initiatives featured in the first edition and highlights the new arts-based engagement initiatives in the city.
  • Senior biology students Brianna Englert of Pottsville, Pa, and Maria McLaughlin of Schuylkill Have, Pa. received funding to partner with the Chester Community Physical Therapy Clinic and Northern Star Sports to organize a children’s fun run in association with the clinic’s annual 5K Run in April.
  • Senior communication studies students Sarah Engman of Havertown, Pa.; Audrey Lee of Roebling, N.J.; Jermaine Kamara of Chester, Pa.; and Victoria Miller of West Chester, Pa. received funding to organize a sustainability day in Chester. The interactive street fair will feature local businesses and vendors, and will include presentations focused on making Chester a healthier and more sustainable city.
  • Jessica Kowalski, a sophomore management major from Philadelphia, who serves as the Pride Service Site Leader for the Chester Shade Tree Commission, received funding to work with the commission to plant trees in Washington Park in Chester to replace those badly damaged by last June’s severe storm.
  • Monica Lesinski, a sophomore nursing major from Williamstown, N.J.; and Ronnie Rabena, a senior political science and international relations major from Philadelphia, received funding for the Widener chapter of Presidents United to Solve Hunger (PUSH) to partner with the Ruth L. Bennett Community Farm in Chester to create a habitat for insects that enhance plant pollination and contribute to the sustainability, growth and development of the farm.
  • The Alpha Tau Omega fraternity received funding to partner with Chester Eastside, Inc. to build the infrastructure for an after school program. Members of the fraternity will research other after school programs, volunteer and raise funds for the initiative.