• Marty

School-downtown partnerships are a win for everybody in Franklin

Concord Monitor | Elodie Reed

As efforts continue to build up downtown Franklin, a 15-year-old filmmaker, a high school engineering class and Colby-Sawyer College graphic designers and environmental scientists are pitching in to help.

Area high schools and colleges are partnering with the nonprofit PermaCityLife to work on the laundry list of projects to make the city more attractive for businesses, tourists and new residents.

In return for providing logos and “identity systems” for marketing, eco-park designs, ecological mapping and films – all for free – the students get something invaluable: work experience in a real, live community.

“You just can’t replicate that just in the classroom,” Jen White, CSC sustainability coordinator, said.

“It’s kind of like a win-win on both sides,” Jenisha Shrestha, the PermaCityLife community development coordinator, added.


On a sunny February morning after some heavy snowfall, White grabbed a shovel and started scooping snow away from the old Hair Doctors storefront in downtown Franklin.

Above the space is a new, vibrant sign, reading “Sustainable Learning Initiative at Franklin Falls.”

White has overseen the creation of a new, three-year bachelor’s degree program in community-based sustainability. A large component of the major is hands-on work with different initiatives in the Three Rivers City, facilitated by PermaCityLife.

This is the first year for the program. There are still some wrinkles to iron out, like getting a working heating system in the Franklin field studies office.

After shoveling out the entryway, White and Shrestha went inside, where cubby work spaces, a sitting area, and a conference room are set up.

“We had a couple meetings in there before it got really cold,” Shrestha said. Even without the office, however, she said about 90 CSC students were involved with the Sustainable Learning Initiative last semester.

That number is slightly reduced for the spring semester. Some are in the new degree program, though others are just working in Franklin as part of their other classes.