Penn State University is the lifeblood of State College, Pa., but its 46,000 undergrads rarely interact with the township that encircles it. In 2010, a group of graduates set out to change that. Here's how coworking space and networking group New Leaf Initiative brings everyone together.

Set up shop

The campus and downtown are divided by College Avenue. “Getting students to cross was the first challenge,” says executive director Galen Bernard. “But we secured a space downtown and started helping turn student ideas into action. The community downtown saw what we were doing and said, ‘Hey, we could use some of that, too.'”

Change the perception

“The focus here is often on frats, football and finance,” Bernard says. “But New Leaf works with students and young adults in the community -- and people who move to State College from Philly and Brooklyn -- who want to innovate. It's easy for the town to think young people are just here to party, but we're changing that.”

Bridge the gap

New Leaf schedules informal meetings with community organizations to discuss their members' work and ask for support, or a chance to collaborate. “It's a transient town for twentysomethings,” says Bernard. “We have to tell residents about our members who are planting long-term roots in State College.”

Keep their attention

Once New Leaf had proven itself, the city pledged its support -- the mayor even invited Bernard to a party at her house. As the organization grew, its staff learned how to let members know of the city's interest. Says Bernard, “Local leaders want to know about any person doing something cool.”

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