New Kensington community takes collaborative action for a sustainable future

reNew Kensington initiative, led by Penn State campus, spurs learning and action
Participants collaborate during reNew Kensington Community Workshop

Participants of the reNew Kensington Community Workshop take part in the collaborative reThink session on Sept. 27 in downtown New Kensington. The session featured interactive activities to identify action steps in relation to sustainability and resilience for the city. The event, led by Penn State New Kensington, was made possible, in part, because of a grant from the West Penn Power Sustainable Energy Fund (WPPSEF).

Credit: Rebecca Dietrich

NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. — More than 60 New Kensington leaders, residents and business owners joined students, faculty and staff from Penn State New Kensington on Sept. 27 to learn more about sustainability and how it can be implemented throughout the city.

The day-long reNew Kensington Community Workshop was made possible, in part, thanks to a $75,000 grant from the West Penn Power Sustainable Energy Fund (WPPSEF).

“We’re here to help, and this is a community effort," said Kevin Snider, chancellor of Penn State New Kensington. "We also want everyone to take away that things are happening and that we’re serious about making substantial differences in New Kensington.”

Snider and the campus have been active partners in the city’s revitalization efforts through initiatives such as establishing the campus’ innovation hub, The Corner, along Fifth Avenue; and creating the Corridor of Innovation, a five-block stretch of Fifth Avenue between The Corner and Westmoreland County Community College’s New Kensington Center.

“We’re here to help, and this is a community effort. We also want everyone to take away that things are happening and that we’re serious about making substantial differences in New Kensington.”

—Kevin Snider, chancellor of Penn State New Kensington

Tom Guzzo, mayor of New Kensington, attributes collaboration as a driving force for the city’s transformation.

“We are a city that is revitalizing with the help of Penn State, some outside companies who really want to work with us, and some innovative ideas, and we’re very excited about it,” said Guzzo to workshop attendees.

The reNew Kensington workshop provided attendees with collaborative activities along the Corridor of Innovation. Guests first listened to a moderated panel about how sustainability can help transform small Rust Belt towns. Panelists include Meredith Benek, communications and program coordinator of Sustainable Pittsburgh; Erin Hart, program director for Farm to Table; and Mario Leonie Jr., borough manager of Monaca. Two breakout sessions followed the discussion and featured the topics of “Building Retuning” with the Pennsylvania Technical Assistance Program (PennTAP) and “City Planning with Sustainability” with the Green Building Alliance and Sustainable Pittsburgh.

The keynote speaker for the day, Grant Ervin, chief resilience officer for the City of Pittsburgh, spoke about trends such as urbanization, globalization, climate change and inequality facing cities in the western Pennsylvania region.

“I wanted to introduce the concept of resilience,” explained Ervin. “Towns and regions have the same concept as cities like Pittsburgh. We’ve taken the concept and packaged it in a way where we’re looking at local government effectively as one of the delivery agents of building resilience within a community.”

The culminating activity of the day was the finale “reThink” session at The Corner, where attendees identified sustainability and resilience needs for the Corridor of Innovation and the entire city through interactive, facilitated planning sessions.

“What you’ve been talking about today is going to be used; it’s going to be heard; and it’s going to be addressed, and I’m really looking forward to those conversations,” said Snider at the end of the reThink session.

“I think this was a really nice collaboration of a lot of different people with a lot of different backgrounds,” added Guzzo. “It was people from all walks of life, whether it was business, our schools, and our residents. They see, sense and feel the excitement of New Kensington right now, and I think they want to progress from that point and help us out. I’m looking forward to all the recommendations and all the suggestions.”

Throughout the rest of the 2018-19 year, the campus will continue to utilize the remainder of the WPPSEF grant to keep the momentum strengthened at the workshop, through more sustainability awareness activities and creating a specific sustainability plan for the city.

A full photo gallery of the event can be viewed on the campus’ Facebook page.

About the West Penn Power Sustainable Energy Fund

The WPPSEF is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that invests in the deployment of sustainable energy technologies that benefit West Penn Power rate payers in Pennsylvania. WPPSEF investments are focused in three broad categories:

  • Deployment of sustainable and clean energy technologies.
  • Deployment of energy efficiency and conservation technologies.
  • Facilitating economic development, environmental betterment, and public education as they relate to sustainable energy deployment in the WPP service region.

Visit for further information.