A Project for Students and Citizens

Hobson City: Week Nine

In Hobson City on August 9, 2012 at 12:28 am

Marian Royston is living democracy in Hobson City, Alabama.  Originally from Roanoke, Alabama, she is a senior majoring in history at Auburn University. Living Democracy is a yearlong collaboration between students and citizens on issues that matter to local communities.

This has been without a doubt one of the most challenging experiences of my life. Coming into the Living Democracy project, I was forewarned of the challenges that go along with working in communities, but there wasn’t much that could prepare me for the level of difficulties and frustrations that I encountered as I tried to implement my project. Many times I even thought that what I was doing was going to end up a total failure, but I kept trying my best to work through. Looking back, I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. I’ve gained knowledge that cannot be found in a lecture hall or a dusty textbook. I do believe that I’ve been successful in Hobson City, but I didn’t achieve the conventional success that I was expecting. Instead, I achieved the kind of success that I believe can be built on.

Working on the community needs assessment proved to be a bigger and more arduous task than I had originally anticipated. Despite all of the plans and research, there was still one variable in the equation that was unaccounted for.  I quickly learned that people are unpredictable and that the success of my project was not entirely in my own hands. I was at the mercy of the citizens of Hobson City. Therefore, I realized, when working in a community, establishing relationships and building trust is very necessary.  Building trust isn’t always easy in an economically marginalized community. It’s even more difficult when the broken promises of the past and political division are added to the mix.

I had my work cut out for me, and at times I felt overwhelmed. Getting one person to complete an assessment proved to be a challenge. Every time I successfully administered one, however, I realized that I was providing something important to the community. I was able to give a voice to people who had probably never been asked for an opinion before. Once I started asking questions, people were happy to chat with me about their thoughts on the community. The citizens of Hobson City were yearning for a way to express themselves, but didn’t know how. Although I was only able to reach a sampling of the community, I feel that I helped pave the way to future conversations about the community.

I think the project did give citizens the opportunity to explore their hopes and dreams. If not the project, then I hope my presence afforded that chance. I always tried to appear friendly and trustworthy and ask the questions that I felt needed to be asked. Hopefully, by spreading awareness about my project and implementing it, I was able to communicate what democratic citizenship meant to me. Overall, I think that I was able to be an example of the changes that are coming to Hobson City.  Few have ever come from the outside seeking to immerse themselves in the community as I have. The fact that someone cares enough to do so is different. Many of the citizens around here are used to being passed by and looked over. Now, the spotlight is moving onto Hobson City, and citizens are starting to realize that they can take control of the future. Did I radically change anything? No, I don’t believe so, but I do believe that my time here will have a strong impact.

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