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Ohio State works to rehab Near East with PACT

Cody Cousino / Lantern photographer

A $10 million donation from Ohio State fueled a project to transform the Near East Side of Columbus, and students play a part in the process.

Partners Achieving Community Transformation (PACT) is a partnership between the city of Columbus, the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA), Near East Side stakeholders and OSU.

Together they are working to transform the Near East Side, said Dawn Tyler Lee, executive director of PACT and assistant vice president for community relations at OSU.

The vision of the project is to “create a healthy, financially and environmentally sustainable community where residents have access to safe and affordable housing, quality health care and education, and employment opportunities on the Near East Side of Columbus,” according to the PACT website.

PACT is not alone in their work to make a difference on the Near East Side; students are also contributing.

“We have established the East-Side Buckeye Initiatives in conjunction with the Office of Student Life, International Poverty Solutions Collaborative (IPSC) and PACT in order to create institutions that serve to connect OSU students and Near East Side residents,” said Adrian Jusdanis, a third-year in psychology and an intern at the Poverty Center.

This initiative will include mentoring and internship programs, said Patricia Cunningham, director of Student Engagement Core at the Poverty Center.

“The IPSC student interns are at the forefront of developing the meaningful and non-poverty tourism connections (there),” Cunningham said.

The goals of the mentor program, which is set to start Spring Quarter, are to help the Near East Side’s youth succeed in school, maintain good health and become leaders in their community through strong relationships with positive role models, OSU students and mentors, Jusdanis said.

The internship program will also start Spring Quarter and collaborate with the Eldon and Elsie Ward Family YMCA, located on the Near East Side.

“(It) will offer the interns a good deal of control over one of the following areas at the Ward YMCA: internal YMCA events for members, collaboration with other community organization and sporting programming for the youth at the (YMCA),” Jusdanis said.

Although PACT is still in the planning phase, Tyler Lee said they have identified the initial investment to Taylor Avenue, which will connect the university hospital, CarePoint East and the outpatient health care facility.

The program launced in January and since then, the project has established five subcommittees, an advisory committee and an office on the Near East Side.

“Ohio State is firmly committed to the Near East Side community,” President E. Gordon Gee said at the launch. “Through PACT, we are pleased to be partnering with the City of Columbus, the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority and Near East Side stakeholders as we work to honor the heritage and build the future of this historic neighborhood.”

Tyler Lee said the Near East Side neighborhood surrounds several pieces of OSU property.

“We want to strengthen partnerships so students can learn more about other parts of the city,” Tyler Lee said.

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