Overcoming the Town-Gown Divide
Every college student has experienced the campus “bubble.” Our schedules - and everyone’s around us - are packed each day with classes, club meetings and football games. We easily forget that the city has its own calendar completely unrelated to campus life. Unfortunately, college towns become synonymous with the schools they host, when in reality, every “college town” has a life of its own that would exist whether the school did or not.
Zack Leitz began The Backpack Project (TBP) to help pop the bubble. An integral part of TBP’s mission is recognizing the entwined Athens-UGA community. Athens is a part of UGA, and UGA is a part of Athens. Therefore, the hundreds of children and adults experiencing homelessness in Athens cannot be shoved aside as only a “town issue.”
As Athens-UGA community members, UGA students have a responsibility to form relationships with all community members. TBP has aimed to do this in Athens through the distribution of over 2,475 backpacks, hoping that even momentarily essential supplies begin to pop the bubble. The same bubbles hover in other college town communities - what’s stopping us from trying to pop them?
This coming fall, The Backpack Project will distribute backpacks outside of the state of Georgia. We have never done this before. As COVID-19 disrupts college town economies, the need for relief will continue to grow. We have the capacity to distribute backpacks in other towns, so it would be irresponsible not to do so. We will test our model in another SEC town similar to our own - yet also different in many ways: Columbia, SC.
*** Stay tuned for more info on TBP / Columbia's first distribution, which took place in September 2020. ***