UN mural unveiled on Youngstown's North Side

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In unveiling a mural Thursday on Elm Street celebrating the UN Sustainable Development Goals, Mila Rosenthal quoted Eleanor Roosevelt.

“Human rights begin in small places close to home,” she said.

Rosenthal’s connection to the project is twofold: She is the United Nations Development Programme’s director of communication and is the daughter of Pat Rosenthal, executive director of Common Wealth Inc., a nonprofit devoted to spurring housing and business development in Youngstown.

The organization’s activity embodies the Roosevelt quote Rosenthal chose. Common Wealth is behind the flurry of development on Elm Street north of Youngstown State University on the North Side.

In 2013, the organization opened Common Wealth Kitchen Incubator, a shared-use commercial kitchen on the block between Baldwin Street and Park Avenue that aims to lower the cost of starting or expanding local food businesses.

Common Wealth’s second, related venture was the opening of Cultivate: a co-op cafe in 2016, next door.

The mural is on the side of the building that houses Cultivate. Against a sky-blue background, large colorful tiles display each of the 17 goals.

The goals are no poverty; zero hunger; good health and well-being; quality education; gender equality; clean water and sanitation; affordable and clean energy; decent work and economic growth; industry, innovation and infrastructure; reduced inequalities; sustainable cities and communities; responsible consumption and production; climate action; life below water; life on land; peace, justice and strong institutions; and partnerships for the goals.

And the goals are interconnected, explained Jim Converse, sustainable development coordinator at Common Wealth.

“When you do one thing, you end up doing some others. Like when we collect food waste, we end up with compost and we can rebuild lots. That feeds back into helping reduce poverty and feed people,” Converse said.

The people celebrating the goals throughout the community with different projects are connected, too.

Bart Smith, principal of Boardman’s Glenwood Junior High School, brought several students to discuss an initiative at the school that centers on the goals. In collaboration with students from Thailand, the Boardman students are creating websites to address challenges faced by their Thai peers.

“The focus here was how we’re building Youngstown, revitalizing Youngstown, but it’s also connecting it to the world and how we have to rebuild the world as far as creating an environment where our kids are going to be able to have a better quality of life than us, and that’s what it comes down to,” Smith said.

Mahoning County Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti said the community’s vibrance should be celebrated more often.

“People don’t see this enough,” she said.

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