Children paint each other’s faces and tap away at electric keyboards. Outside, they run around and shoot baskets in the sunshine. This picturesque scene took place on a warm February day in the community center of Parkview Homes, an affordable housing community in Athens, Georgia. But just a few months ago, the building had been locked, empty, and unused.
Doctoral student Jason Mizell is part of a University of Georgia movement to reopen the nearby community center. Mizell has been surprised and pleased by the response to the new programming at the center, which focuses on sustainably meeting residents’ needs instead of coming in with a “savior” mentality and quickly leaving. Spearheaded by the College of Education’s department of language and literacy education, the project was inspired by a conversation Mizell had with a young Parkview resident named Sierra in June 2016. Sierra wanted a place to hang out with her friends and get help with homework, and she mentioned that the community center in her neighborhood was sitting empty and abandoned. Even though Parkview borders campus, Mizell had not known that it existed.
Like Mizell told me, “We don’t know who our neighbors are.” If you walk from the heart of UGA’s campus straight up Baxter Street, you’ll pass the beautiful new Bolton Dining Commons, three massive high-rise buildings, and the glowing lights of pizza places and chain restaurants. Many students, especially those who live in the freshman high-rises, make this walk every day, but few know about the community on the other side of the street: Parkview.
Mizell and his colleagues are working to get programming in the center running on a more regular basis, but for now, the building can only be open on certain days. But when the doors open, the children of Parkview flock towards the community center like geese flying home. The kids play, but they also express their desires for the future of their community; two large whiteboards are full of scribbled requests from the children and their parents.
Even with all of the service and outreach that comes out of UGA’s campus, Parkview is still underserved. The sharp divide is a symbol of the inequality that characterizes this city, but the official name of the project promises hope for the future: “Cultivating Community Connections Across Athens.”
Catalyst for Change
In this episode, we introduce the Parkview community center project and spotlight the young girl who got the movement started.
In this episode, we dive in to the background of a few of the people involved with the project to learn more about their motivations and passions.
In this episode, we explore different ways to listen to youth voice that go beyond normal conversation.
In this episode, we hear about the fears and hopes that Parkview residents have for this project.