Thursday, March 6, 2008

"Community Ties" To Link Students and Residents

By: Juli Schilling

A new initiative by the Athens Community Relations Commission aims to bring together Ohio University students and Athens County residents. The program, called "Community Ties," plans to have student-community resident partners meet once a month to get to know each other a little better.

The Groundwork
The idea for the new initiative came from Ohio University graduate student, Micah Mitchell. He got the idea from a program at Oberlin College, when a student was paired with his own family. Mitchell brought the idea to Athens and presented it to Athens Community Relations Commission board member and program chairman John Schmieding. Four public relations students at OU also joined the program planning. Their PR class took on the program as a "client", and they began researching and conducting surveys to supplement the initiative.

"We realized that it is something that is needed to raise good neighborliness between the students and the community members," said Omolola Famuyiwa, a PR graduate student working on the initiative. "Community Ties" is one of the only programs in the county to take on the student and resident pairing process.

Need for "Community Ties"
"I think it would be great for community people to get to know students in a way different than reading about something in the paper that nobody's happy about, and it's great for students to get a bigger picture of what the view looks like beyond Court Street and campus," said Schmieding.

Program Chairman John Schmieding talks about the segregation between students and residents.

Program Goals
The main goal of the program is to get Athens residents and Ohio University students to form relationships and get to know each other better. The commission hopes that the new relationships will promote mutual understanding and better community relations.

Graduate Student Omolola Famuyiwa talks about the goals of the "Community Ties" program.

"The goal is for there to be more meaningful interaction in the relationships between the long-term residents and the students of the community," said Schmieding. The program chairman says they are trying to build some bridges and break the barriers between students and community residents.

John Schmieding is the first Athens County resident to be matched with a student.

Program Targets
Freshman students and international students are targeted for the new program, because they are most likely to participate in the initiative. "We're open to anybody, but it'll be a little bit easier for freshman and probably also for incoming international students who will be able to jump into something like this. Once you're a junior or senior, you already got so much going on it's hard to set aside extra time," said Schmieding.

The commission hopes to have eight to ten relationships by early spring quarter that will continue until the end of the school year. Schmieding says these first partnerships in spring will be a "pilot program". In the fall they'd like to expand the number of relationships, but they don't have a particular number in mind.

"We're not trying to do this for a thousand people at this point. We're trying to get started on a smaller scale, and once we'er started we'll have more to say. We'll be able to tell those stories and invite other people to join," said Schmieding.

How to Get Involved
Right now, the commission has lists of interested people from both the Ohio University and Athens communities. They hope to create a database of interested names so they can match students with members of the community.

Graduate Student Omolola Famuyiwa talks about the plans for the program's database of interested students and residents.

Also, the commission hopes to launch a web site in April so that students can find out about events going on in the community. Those interested in becoming involved in "Community Ties" can get in contact with one of the people below.


John Schmieding

Omolola Famuyiwa

Related Links
Athens County Visitor's Bureau
Athen's County Government Web Site
Ohio University web site
Ohio University Admissions
Ohio University International Student and Faculty Services

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