Returning students bring hope and renewal to town

Aug. 16, 2013 @ 08:02 PM

When nearly 30,000 students return to campus in mid-August each year, it’s always a big deal for UNC.

But it’s also an exciting time for The Town of Chapel Hill whose light dims a little each spring after graduation when most students depart, changing the dynamics of the downtown area almost overnight.

Bobby Funk, assistant director of The Downtown Partnership, a nonprofit that advocates for downtown, said students bring a vibrancy that’s missing during the summer months

“It’s always a big boost for merchants downtown,” Funk said. “We’re always glad to have them.”

Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt acknowledges that he enjoys the summers when the town is less crowded.

He said it’s easier to get tables at popular restaurants and gain access to the many public amenities the town provides.

But Kleinschmidt said he also treasures the return of the students who renew the community each August.

“When the students come back, it’s a renewing experience every year,” Kleinschmidt said. “New life is brought in and it helps maintain the dynamic nature of Chapel Hill.”

He said the town if fortunate to share the “hopeful, exciting adventure” with the university each year.

This week and the next, the town plans several high-profile events to help students learn more about Chapel Hill and the people who live there.        

Here are a couple planned events to help students get to know the town better:

- The Town of Chapel Hill Fair Booth will be set up from noon to 2 p.m., Aug. 22, during Week of Welcome (WOW) events on Polk Place Quad on campus.

The table will feature town trivia with Kleinschmidt. Students can test their knowledge about the Town of Chapel Hill, get their picture taken with the mayor, pick up a greenways map and a bus schedule, apply for a paid internship and volunteer to serve on a town initiative.

- On Monday, volunteers from the university and town will knock on about 1,000 doors to spread the word about how to be a good neighbor as part of the town’s “Good Neighbor Initiative.”

The initiative is a program aimed at improving the relationship between student and non-student residents in various neighborhoods in Chapel Hill.

Volunteers will distribute information and invite students to an annual block party to be held at 5 p.m., on Sept. 12 at the Hargraves Community Center in the Northside neighborhood.