This is one of several Solutions Journalism stories published through a Grady capstone course that reported on housing issues during the fall of 2018.
There are about 37,000 students attending the University of Georgia and encompassing the city of Athens. With students roughly making up about 1/3 of the Athens population, their impact on the greater Athens community is huge.
For example, in the past 10 years, about 12 student high rises were built into the downtown Athens area. These include 909 Broad, the Standard and the Eclipse on Broad.Why It’s Newsworthy: UGA students leave a huge impact on the Athens-Clarke County community and are sometimes unaware of that fact. Organizations, like ServeUGA, on campus are providing knowledge and opportunities to help them experience the totality of their impact and to reciprocate that back onto the community.
Many students do not recognize that they are not just a part of UGA but also a subset of Athens as well.
Student organizations such as ServeUGA are working to bridge the gap between students and the greater Athens community by educating students about the actual needs of the community and its residents.
“A lot of students live inside of the UGA bubble, and they don’t really experience or learn about the community around them, and it’s difficult to get them to care about something they aren’t involved in,” said Emily Stone, the former director of outreach for ServeUGA.
Stone talked about the organization facing obstacles of trying to educate UGA students on the issues that non-UGA students face.
“It takes a lot of education and information to really get students to care about and understand the issues happening in the community,” said Stone.
Similarly, getting cooperation from many non-profit organizations in the Athens area has proven to be a stopping point as well. The problems that ServeUGA has faced is trying to get everyone involved on the same page.
Communication is the big key, said Katy Miles, the current director of outreach for ServeUGA.
We have to make sure that the organizations that we partner with have a need for us and what we offer, that way students can get the full effect of their service and so can the community,” said Miles.
Often, non-profit organizations do not have the required manpower needed to host or cooperate with some events the ServeUGA offers. This makes it difficult for volunteers to have a wide range of experience within the different organizations in the Athens community.
Portraying the importance of service and outreach to UGA students is a difficult task all on its on.
Stone mentioned that a way to combat these obstacles is to make sure that students have a complete knowledge and understanding of the issues that residents of the Athens-Clarke County community face rather than what students perceive.
Some UGA students may be unaware of the all-encompassing effect that their stay has on the Athens-Clarke County community, and student organizations like ServeUGA are trying to help increase their awareness of what’s going on.
Ashley Ansley is a senior majoring in journalism in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.