Three State College churches will be hosting forums this weekend to foster discussion on child abuse prevention and actions for the State College community to take to move on from the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse case, said Eileen Wise, co-leader of the Community Café Project and executive director of Smart Start Centre County.
“After the Sandusky news broke, I felt that many people were just devastated,” Wise said. “We didn’t know how to think about it. There were only two extremes — anger and paralysis.”
Marilyn Anderson, a Community Café facilitator for the past five years, said that multiple tables are set up during the forum, each with it’s own trained facilitator. Questions are posed to the room and discussed by each table individually, after which everyone in attendance comes together to share conclusions.
“We want people to feel they’re owners of this problem and come away with an idea for bringing about change in our community,” Co-Leader of the project and Director of Life Span Religious Education at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Centre County Jean Wiant said.
The forums are at 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Centre County; at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at University Mennonite Church; and at 5:30 p.m. Monday at State College Presbyterian Church.
The forums are open to everyone 16 and older and each forum has room for 52 people, but the churches will accommodate a greater number if need be, Wise said.
“I think this would be really relevant [to Penn State students],” Diana Malcom, associate in ministry at State College Presbyterian Church.
Malcom said that the forums are applicable to students not only because of the Sandusky case’s connection to the university, but also because many students will eventually become parents or move into careers dealing with children.
“We, as a community, cannot move forward without the Penn State students having a voice in this conversation,” Malcom said.
Penn State student Anna Robuccio said that these forums can be a way for Penn State students to grow closer to each other and the larger community.
“Growing together is critical at a time like this because a lot of people have lost faith in Penn State,” Robuccio (junior-neurobiology) said. “We need to show the community that what has happened doesn’t define who we are”