‘Don’t forget about us.’ Altoona community forum brings residents together to talk about the region’s future

    Altoona area residents met Tuesday night for a community forum, where they discussed their hopes and fears for their community.

    Altoona area residents who came to the Keystone Crossroads/WPSU public forum described their hometown with these words:

    full of promise
    sad
    isolated
    a nice place to raise a family
    nostalgic (some say to a fault)

    And the word “nativism” came up a fair amount. This simultaneous nostalgia, sadness and hope was a common theme in discussions among the 60 people who attended the forum at Penn State Altoona’s Devorris Downtown Center on Tuesday evening.

    The forum centered on the overarching questions that are driving the Keystone Crossroads project: “What are the biggest issues facing your community? And what are some possible solutions?”

    The attendees—comprised of students, public officials, community leaders, and passionate citizens—shared their hopes for the city (downtown revitalization, better ways to attract youth to stay) as well as their fears (the inability to improve the economy, disinterest in local matters). They talked about what the government—and the media—can do better, but also turned inward to acknowledge the “bad habits” of area residents: too much pining for days past, a lack of vision, not enough civic participation, complaining without offering solutions.

    But the discussion (and the great turnout at the forum) reflected optimism and a desire for the city to move forward.

    One attendee said, “Nobody understands what they’ve got here, how great this town can be.”

    Ideas from the forum will directly guide our future Keystone Crossroads coverage.  The forum was the fourth hosted by Keystone Crossroads (previous forums were held in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Harrisburg). The project will host another forum in the Allentown area in the coming months.

    Thanks to local media outlets who covered the event. You can read more about the forum from Altoona Mirror, WJAC, and WTAJ.

    [View the story “Altoona Community Forum” on Storify]

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.