BROWNSVILLE — The efforts of Brownsville Area High School students took center stage Friday for their efforts to help revitalize the borough’s downtown area.

Aided by their teacher and faculty adviser, Kelli Dellarose, the students designed plans for an outdoor stage to be erected in historic Snowdon Square in downtown Brownsville. The project won first place in the Jefferson Awards competition in April and has been selected to receive federal technical assistance funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Brownsville Mayor Lester Ward pledged community support for the project.

Ward praised the students involved for their effort, adding, “We, in Brownsville, will be continuing with this.”

Brownsville Borough Council has allocated $2,500 in funding towards the construction of the stage, and, to date, $4,300 in private donations has been received from local businesses, organizations and others.

“We’re really excited this project has taken hold in the community. The kids have been working so hard and it’s also nice to get national support,” Dellarose said. “Still, our work here is not done. Our main goal is to secure additional funding.”

Earl F. Grohl, federal co-chairman of ARC, told the students, “We’re so happy to be able to support your work. This technical assistance project shows how government agencies can come together and work with local communities to improve the quality of life for Appalachian families. Working together, we can achieve far more ambitious goals than what we could accomplish working alone.”

Larry Elworth, agricultural counselor at the EPA, echoed Grohl’s sentiment that the project demonstrated the progress made when community members and government agencies work together.

About the Brownsville community, Elworth said, “You have tremendous assets here but the biggest one is your young people. We want to help you grow economically in ways that promote clean air and water and safeguard human health.”

Elworth said the EPA will hold workshops in the near future to assist in moving the project forward.

Christian Sesek, a sophomore at Brownsville Area High School and one of the students spearheading the effort, spoke on behalf of the student group. Sesek said while they originally undertook the project as part of the Jefferson Awards competition, their overall motive was to help revitalize the community.

“Brownsville is not what it once was. Our project hopes to bring back community spirit, to be a shot in the arm of adrenaline,” Sesek said.

He compared the technical assistance from the ARC and the EPA to “a support group” and stressed the group continues to seek financial assistance to help build the stage. He concurred with Dellarose’s comment that the next step is to raise more money. He suggested those interested in donating visit the project’s website at sites.google.com/site/ofrstudentsinaction for more information on how they can get involved.

Sesak estimated the project will take about five years to complete.

The recognition ceremony was originally slated to be held in the Market Street parking lot but had to moved indoors because of a steady downpour. Brownsville residents and entrepreneurs Mitch and Brianne Mitchell welcomed the students, community members and visiting dignitaries inside the café they are renovating near the planned project site. Brianne Mitchell said they were “happy to host the event” and was quick to point out the role Dellarose played in helping the students get the project going.

“We’re really proud of Kelli and her students. She’s been the mom of the project, going over and above. Her dedication was key,” Mitchell said.

Also on hand to celebrate the students’ achievement was Brownsville Area School District Superintendent Philip Savini Jr.

Savini said, “The district is very proud of the direction the students have taken. Their leadership and drive has made the community move at a quicker pace. Having the youth involved has added to the energy of the adults. I’m so pleased by what they’ve accomplished.”

Jean Eisenhuth, an active member of the Brownsville Garden Club, also spoke highly of the students’ effort.

“This is the first spark I’ve seen,” she said. “It’s so good to see something positive happen in Brownsville.”

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