- Associated Press - Saturday, December 26, 2015

JACKSON, Mich. (AP) - From keeping the history of Jackson alive by sharing personal anecdotes to developing a new way to report unshoveled walkways, the city just got a few new resource to help residents.

For the third year in a row, University of Michigan School of Information graduate students spent their fall semester working with organizations and departments within the city to design workable solutions for problems faced by residents, showcasing their solution to the public at City Hall on Dec. 7.

Over the past three years, the program has churned out 24 projects for the city and local organizations to help address needs that were not being taken care of before the start of the partnership.

“Completing these projects in 15 weeks is a herculean task,” said Scott TenBrink, community liaison for the university and city. “With this program, the students want to create something that will carry on beyond their pitch. To provide something the community needs, it gives them a chance to own a piece of citizenship with the community.”

MLive.com (https://bit.ly/1JsLOnL ) reports that most of the programs involve the use of web portals to inform residents about community issues and solutions while also having a more traditional paper-based format for those who are not familiar with how to use the internet.

One student group, for example, created a web portal application that is used to track and report sidewalks that have not been cleared of snow as well as a way to volunteer to help residents who are physically unable to shovel their walks.

U-M Associate Professor and faculty organizer of the program, Cliff Lampe, said the students were overjoyed this year working with non-profits, helping them address their specific needs in the community.

“Most programs and public entities have an old-fashioned, outward-facing way of distributing information through notices and public hearings. Our thought was to make things more involved to improve relations between the city and residents,” Lampe said.

All programs are active now and according to City Public Information Officer will Forgrave will be adopted by city.

This is the final year for the program under city contract, but that does not mean this is thelast time the U-M students will come to Jackson.

“I know my staff has learned a lot from the students,” said City Manager Patrick Burtch. “We appreciate them for what they do for the city.”

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Information from: The Grand Rapids Press:MLive.com, https://www.mlive.com

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