By:  Suzie Jones, Project Coordinator, Office of Community Engagement, Ball State University

On May 2, the 8twelve Coalition received the 2022 Ball State University Community Partner of the Year Award at Ball State’s Immersive Learning Showcase.  President Geoffrey S. Mearns presented the award to Jena Ashby, a leader of the coalition.

The annual award recognizes an East Central Indiana business, organization, or agency that demonstrated excellence as a co-educator and community partner during the previous year.  Partners are nominated by Ball State faculty and staff.  The 8twelve Coalition was nominated by Kate Elliott, lecturer for the Department of Journalism and chair of the College of Communication, Information, and Media (CCIM) Engagement Task Force.

Members of the 8twelve Coalition stand with President Mearns at the award ceremonyFive years ago, the 8twelve Coalition, a local non-profit organization in partnership with the Greater Muncie Habitat for Humanity, developed a neighborhood revitalization plan and received funding from a Lowe’s Neighborhood Revitalization grant to support efforts on several projects in the South Central and Thomas Park/Avondale neighborhoods.  The plan focuses on the improvement of housing, beautification of these neighborhoods, and support of its local businesses, with the ultimate outcome being improved quality of life for the residents.

During 2020-2021, several teams of Ball State CCIM students captured stories of neighborhood families, created marketing materials for area nonprofits, produced informational videos on homelessness and addiction, and developed an interactive rental property website.  During these types of immersive learning projects, students gain valuable insight from these experiences.

One student commented: “The opportunity to work with the 8twelve Coalition underscores the importance of community advocates in the development of a healthy neighborhood culture. To see leaders investing in their community is not only encouraging but a call to action for people who want to foster change in their neighborhoods. I am proud to associate myself with a university that emphasizes the importance of featuring unsung heroes who empower our local communities.”

Through CCIM’s partnership with the 8twelve, meaningful change and impact is occurring in these neighborhoods.  The bridge of trust among the 8twelve, the neighborhoods, and the University is being built and sustained through continuous partnership and collaboration.  As one neighborhood resident shared: “It’s been a pleasure to watch faculty and students interact with my neighbors, to enjoy time over ice cream and a good story.  Having Ball State students come help bridge that divide is some of the most important work happening in Muncie, and I am excited for it to continue.  Progress is made at the pace of trust, they say, and building these relationships of trust is key.”

Past winners of the Community Partner Award include ecoREHAB (2017), Youth Opportunity Center (2018), Islamic Center of Muncie (2019), Minnetrista (2020), and Accutech Systems Corporation (2021).