by Rochelle Burks, Heart & Soul Project Coordinator
Rochelle Burks is a master connector, musician, and friend to many in Beaver Falls. After completing her second Master’s Degree this past year, she was hired to be the Project Coordinator for the Beaver Falls Heart & Soul grant and has begun gathering a team to begin doing the visioning work aimed at elevating all voices in the community.
Beaver Falls is home for me...now, that is.
These are words I didn’t originally plan on saying when I moved to Beaver Falls for graduate school in 2016. At that time, I thought I would finish my degree and then move back to Chicago with my family. However, over the last few years, I have found new family in the friends and neighbors that I’ve met around town. These loved ones, now so dear to me, have fed me, housed me, celebrated with me, cried with me and have truly shown me what it means to be committed to a place, to this beloved city, to Beaver Falls.
I now find myself content in my 5th avenue home where I live with my three roommates. Our street is booming with life and laughter as well as a number of challenging realities all of which we bear together. I have not known a communal love and generosity quite like that which I experience everyday in Beaver Falls. Now that I have been touched by it, I am committed to giving back to the community with my time, energy, and talents.
One of many lanes in which I get to do this is through a community program called Heart & Soul. Funded by a grant awarded to the Beaver Falls Community Development Corporation (CDC) by the Pennsylvania Humanities Council, Heart & Soul gives the residents of Beaver Falls a chance to share their stories and make a change in the city. As the Project Coordinator for this program, I get to work with a talented group of community volunteers in bringing out voices of neighbors from whom we don’t often hear. In this process, it is crucial that we involve EVERYONE as we try to determine what matters most to us as a community.
Similarly, Neighborhood North: Museum of Play exerts the maximum effort to include everyone in their programming, as well. Neighborhood North provides the youth of Beaver Falls access to STEM education all too often reserved only for the more affluent school districts. Parents are also empowered in their role as key players in their child’s education bringing unity to the family unit and ultimately the greater community as well. It is only through such unity that Beaver Falls will flourish unto her true potential, and we all have a role to play in this. The people and culture of Beaver Falls have done so much to contribute to my flourishing. It only seems right that now I do all that I can to return the favor.
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