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My Community, My Vision Students in the future Common Grounds Coffee Shop

My Community, My Vision Students Transform Community Space

My Community, My Vision provides a new vision for connecting young people in Indiana to the places they live and allowing them the opportunity to make a positive impact in their communities.

Editor's Note: This story was originally published by the Indiana Housing & Community Development Authority (IHCDA) in the summer 2023 issue of IHCDA...the Magazine. We are proud to partner with the IHCDA on the CreatINg Places program, building vibrant communities across the State of Indiana.

Walking into the Warren County Prosecuting Attorney’s office on Monroe Street in downtown Williamsport, signs of change are everywhere. Stacks of old books and files cover tables and chairs, furniture has been moved into corners, and just through a door leading to the second half of the building, offices have been gutted and walls have been ripped out.

With summer light coming in from the large front windows, a group of young people and adults huddle in groups in the vacant space. Some are pulling up nails where carpet has given way to historic wood floors, some are sanding down walls and patching holes with grout, and still others sit on the dusty floor to scrape glue and grime from baseboards.

Just outside, hanging in the window in front of the large room where the group now works, hangs a sign that reads, “Future Home of Common Grounds Coffee Shop.”

Seven or eight months ago, this work in progress was nothing more than an idea. Students from the Warren County Community Foundation Youth Council and six other youth councils from across the state sent in applications to participate in the Indiana Housing & Community Development Authority’s (IHCDA) 2023 My Community, My Vision (MCMV) program. Outside of their busy schedules of classes, sports, and extracurricular activities, these groups of high school students dedicated their spring semester towards a common goal: building community space that everyone could utilize.

Through workshops and curriculum aided by IHCDA and IHCDA-partner Patronicity, councils from Frankton, Greensburg, Ripley County, Warren County, Batesville, Monticello, and Mishawaka came up with an idea to activate a public space in their community and fundraise to cover half of the transformation’s budget. Crowdfunding from community members, local businesses and organizations, and their peers, students brought their towns and cities together to support their vision.

“During our first meetings, we were brainstorming what our project would be, when one of our seniors mentioned that a coffee shop with free wifi would be a good idea,” said Jack Puterbaugh, a sophomore at Seeger High School and member of the Warren County Youth Council.

Alongside the nonprofit coffee shop in downtown Williamsport, other youth councils built crowdfunding pages on Patronicity’s website to paint murals, fix up dilapidated basketball courts, install accessible playground equipment, and renovate local parks to make them more inviting.

Three students work to paint a mural project in Monticello, Indiana
A mural project in progress in Monticello, Indiana

Using their creativity and flexing their public speaking and community engagement skills, students raised both awareness of the importance of safe and accessible spaces for young people to gather and the dollars needed to make their ideas come to life. At the end of the four-month program, every student youth council raised their fundraising goal and received a matching grant through IHCDA’s CreatINg Places program.

“Overall, I've learned from this project that our community is very tight-knit and supportive. I was surprised by the amount of people that were willing to donate to our cause because it would help their community out,” said Marissa Rickey, another Warren County Youth Council member.

The fundraising was really just the beginning. While students gave of their time to participate in the program during the school year, many are continuing to volunteer throughout the summer to use the funds to create their space.

In Batesville, local art teachers and students will paint basketball courts with lively and colorful paint at Liberty Park. The doors of the future coffee shop in Williamsport—while not yet serving lattes—are open for students and community members to help get the space ready. Several students are already painting beautiful new murals in a pocket part in Monticello.

“We all love this community and are trying to make it better,” Puterbaugh concluded. And while there is still a lot of work to be done, the 2023 My Community, My Vision youth councils are doing just that: making their communities better one public space at a time.

My Community, My Vision Youth Councils stand on a stage
My Community, My Vision Youth Councils

Monticello Next Generation Youth Advocates raised $12,840 of $10,000 goal for Now Playing... Monticello!

Mishawaka Mayor’s Youth Council raised $50,266 of $50,000 goal for Mishawaka Pocket Park.

Greensburg Mayor’s Youth Council raised $22,410 of $15,000 goal for Mayor's Youth Council- Greensburg North Park.

Ripley County Youth Outreach raised $10,306 of $10,000 goal for Adding Art to the Park!

Batesville Mayor’s Youth Council raised $28,475 of $25,000 goal for Project Park Pizazz | Liberty Park.

Frankton Students in Action raised $37,900 of $25,000 goal for Frankton Elementary Inclusive Playground.

Warren County Youth Council raised $67,550 of $50,000 goal for Common Grounds Coffee Co.- Nonprofit Coffee Shop.