Read Paul Born's latest book:
Read Paul Born's latest book:
Community means inter-dependency, communication and support between multiple individuals, groups, organizations, governments or nations. This could be as simple as holding the door open for someone as you leave the grocery store, or launching a national organization to address a systemic societal issue. The term "community" is so encompassing that there are hundreds of possible definitions that could be as vague and ambiguous as the feeling of ‘helping out’ or as hyper-specific as is needed on government grants for non-profit or specific project funding. The crux of the matter is that a community should involve everyone it claims to represent, and everyone therein should work together towards a common goal.
Living in a university town allows for interesting interactions and experiences between the student population and its surrounding city. An underlying dichotomy exists between the school and the city. On the one hand, the students coming in are a boon to the city’s economy and community life. Many city services are only able to be offered to the large extent they currently are because the incoming students pay for these services through their tuitions; local residents can benefit from these extended services. Students also contribute their monies to local businesses, cultural and recreational facilities. However, at the same time, the city is wary of the student population and tends to assume an automatic negative attitude towards them as a whole because of disturbances to the greater community when the weekends roll around. Many students then feel unjustly accused and misrepresented when these negative perceptions are thrown upon them as a whole due to the actions of a certain percentage of the population. This causes them to regress into their student ‘bubbles’ and minimally engage with the communities that surround them. With this disengagement from the community, further problems and conflicts are perpetuated as the student sees the city as a temporary living space with no personal investment and thereby less inclined to respect the space and people within it.
One of the easiest solutions for dealing with a transient student population and allowing for the development of a sense of community, and therefore respect, is engaging them through volunteer work. The opportunity to get involved and connected with the area that you live in, does incredible amounts of good not only for those who receive the volunteer services, but for those who give it. The sense of accomplishment and ownership over a completed volunteer project is immense and can act as a tether for one’s respect towards a community. Additionally, as is the case when we find a large concentration of young people in a small area, there are always many people who are passionate and extremely involved in their communities whether they consider their city, province, religion, social issue, political ideology or sexuality their ‘community’. These impassioned individuals act as ‘hubs’ to the various communities and allow youth to become more connected in their societies beyond the immediate environment outside their door towards the provincial, national or international community level.
I challenge all post-secondary institutions to put more emphasis on involving their students with the greater community in which they live. Young people have great potential and willingness to contribute to society, but at times are not taken seriously by those who possess the power to mobilize them positively for their community. In our society, we are incredibly lucky to have the freedom to get involved with our community in any way at all that we choose. Involvement with a community can be as small or as large an act as we want it to be. Community is something to be cherish, to be proud of, and to fight for fiercely.