RAs Rave About Downtown Scranton

08-26-11
                   Students devoured delicious gourmet chocolate, sipped organic smoothies, purchased unique Electric City pillows, eco-friendly soaps, “up-cycled” jewelry and one-of-a-kind accessories, and even shopped at an Apple store – the computer, not the fruit – all without ever leaving downtown Scranton.

         Eighty-seven Resident Assistants (RAs) discovered parts of downtown Scranton they had never seen before one evening during their two-week training program when they participated in a walking tour of dozens of downtown businesses. The tour ended with dinner at one of 10 different city restaurants. 

         
          “I have never seen many of these shops before – and I’m a senior,” said Anahita Saadat, who had previously thought she had a fairly good understanding of shops and eateries downtown.

          Saadat, an exercise science major from Boonton Township, N.J., discovered a whole new side of downtown during the event, which was arranged in cooperation with the Office of Residence Life and community partner, Scranton Tomorrow, which adapted its “FAM” (familiarization) tour for the student group. The tour and dinner experience is one of several new initiatives organized by the University’s Community Relations Office intended to better familiarize students with the city.

          “We targeted the RAs for the downtown tour because they are in a position to inform other students about what downtown has to offer,” said Julie Schumacher Cohen, director of community relations at Scranton. “The RAs seemed to really like the shops and restaurants they visited – many for the first time.”

          The rest of the student body can uncover Scranton’s secrets themselves through a Downtown Scavenger Hunt that begins with a 3:30 p.m. registration on the DeNaples Patio Friday, Sept. 2. Faculty and staff will be invited to participate in a downtown tour later in September. 

          The scavenger hunt event is part of Fall Welcome Week and has been planned in partnership with the University’s Center for Student Engagement.

          “Scranton students will pair up in teams of two and use the Foursquare mobile app to find clues that will lead them through a maze of downtown businesses,” said Cohen. “The scavenger hunt will end with a downtown reception including free food from downtown eateries, live music from student bands, prizes for the winners, and a special drawing for everyone.”

          Major prizes include a $200 gift certificate from The Mall at Steamtown, two tickets to “In The Heights” at the Scranton Cultural Center, as well as several other gifts from downtown businesses.

          The event was planned to coincide with Scranton’s monthly First Friday art-walk, which will begin immediately after the scavenger hunt.

          In order to prepare for the scavenger hunt, Cohen, with the help of community and University partners, including the Kania School of Management and the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), organized a meeting with more than 40 downtown businesses to discuss and elicit feedback and support. The meeting was followed by SBDC training for 30 businesses on how to use Foursquare.

          Cohen said all the initiatives are intended to be fun and better inform students about what is available downtown.

          “There is also a deeper side as well,” said Cohen. “St. Ignatius often founded his universities in cities.  These events are a way to help further connect the city of Scranton and the University.” 

          Cohen plans other initiatives for the fall including a new business update with monthly specials that will be featured on the University’s community relations’ webpage.  The first one will highlight Scranton Tomorrow’s “The Show It, Save It” program, a student discount program through which nearly 30 downtown businesses offer discounts to students with a valid college ID from a Lackawanna County college or university.

          Family Weekend, which is set for Sept. 30 through Oct. 2, will also include a focus on downtown with restaurants offering discounts and specials and an Oct. 7 College Night First Friday will feature student groups performing at downtown venues.

          Sponsors of the downtown Scavenger Hunt include: Diversified Information Technologies, The Mall at Steamtown, Penn Security Bank & Trust, PNC Bank, Radisson Lackawanna Station Hotel, Tobyhanna Federal Credit Union and Wells Fargo.

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