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Eleven complete 2018 Connect with Southern Indiana program

Community development projects partner with Vanderburgh Health Department

May 15, 2018

Eleven local leaders successfully completed University of Southern Indiana's 2018 Connect with Southern Indiana program on Thursday, May 4. An annual leadership program, Connect with Southern Indiana was established in 2006 and is managed by Community Engagement, a department within USI Outreach and Engagement.

The program is in its sixth year of using the Romain College of Business Entrepreneurship Initiative model as a guide. Participants attended 10 full-day sessions focusing on divergent and analytical thinking, idea generation, communication and strategic entrepreneurship from a community development perspective.

This year's Connect with Southern Indiana class worked with the Vanderburgh County Health Department to create innovative solutions for three major health issues that plague southern Indiana: Opioid addiction, infant mortality and lead paint exposure. Teams presented their collaborative projects at the conclusion of the program.

Below is a list of the projects, the team members involved and a brief description of the project:

211: Laura Anderson and Jenelle Himsel
Indiana's 211 is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing free and confidential information. The statewide resource directory includes a searchable database, hotline and email address. Through an improved branding strategy, awareness of 211 resources will increase, including lead poisoning resources that will help improve the health and lives of children in our region.

#Safebaby: Brushell Solorzano, Lori Barnett and Kristi Brown
The #Safebaby app is designed to educate new parents on safe practices. Widespread usage of the #Safebaby app will help save babies and lower infant mortality rates.

Get 'em Out of the Cabinet: Amber Wells, Kate Heilman and Laura O'Leary
This community-based opioid drop-off event will rid households of leftover or expired opioid prescriptions that could potentially be abused.

Reducing Fetal / Infant Mortality in Vanderburgh County: Ryan Bixler-Rigg, Jalessa Eskridge and Gena Garrett
This project proposes the establishment of a mobile health clinic to address risk factors that contribute to high fetal and infant mortality rates in Vanderburgh County.

Connect with Southern Indiana continues to promote active citizenship for individuals across a nine-county region in southwest Indiana. Connect with Southern Indiana is open to Indiana residents living in Dubois, Gibson, Knox, Perry, Pike, Posey, Spencer, Vanderburgh or Warrick counties who would like to improve the quality of life in their communities.

The 2018 class includes:

Dubois County:                                                   

Jenelle Himsel, Personal Lines Service Manager, German American Insurance

Gibson County:

Laura Anderson, Technical Training Supervisor, Vectren

Posey County:

Amber Wells, Program Management Senior Analyst, Vectren

Spencer County:

Kristi Brown, Administrative Officer, Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial

Vanderburgh County:

Jalessa Eskridge, Development Associate, Carver Community Organization

Gena Garrett, Curator of Educator, Wesselman Nature Society

Katie Heilman, Senior Chemist, AstraZeneca Pharmaceutical

Laura O'Leary, Administrative Coordinator, EVSC Foundation, Inc

Brushell Solorzano, Graduate Assistant, USI Undergraduate Admissions

Warrick County:

Lori Barnett, Executive Assistant, Optimal Rhythms Music Therapy

Ryan Bixler-Rigg, Community Development Manager, American Cancer Society


For more information on the Connect with Southern Indiana program visit or contact Leslie Townsend, director of Community Engagement, at

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