Living Democracy

Democracy is alive and well in Collinsville

Madison inside Collinsville LibraryHere I am after ten weeks of living democracy in Collinsville.  

Until I was 18, I had pretty much only lived in the busy suburbs of Trussville, Alabama, a land of high traffic, numerous employment opportunities, various restaurants and a population of around 20,00.

I grew up there with my parents, sister, and two dogs. To me, Trussville was the place I called home.

When I arrived at Auburn University in the fall for my freshman year, I knew I would now have another place to call home.

When I heard about the AU College of Liberal Arts’ Living Democracy program, I thought it was a unique opportunity. I had never heard of a program that paired students with communities in Alabama for a living-learning experience in community and civic engagement.

When I joined the 2016 Living Democracy team, I was so excited. I was even more excited when I learned my community for the summer would be the town of Collinsville. 

Before I even stepped foot in Collinsville to start my first of many days there, I was already nervous. Nervous I wouldn’t be about to relate to anyone in the town. Nervous I wouldn’t be able to contribute enough to the town. And nervous I wouldn’t be able to meet a variety of people.

Once the initial nerves passed, I found myself right at home from the exact moment I moved into my new home for the summer.

I spent the majority of my time at the library when I was in Collinsville. It was there I began to fully understand what I needed to do for the summer.

Everyone had a vision of what they wanted the town to be, and everyone in the community was involved in working toward that goal, whether it was planning a future 5K run, assisting with the Kid’s Reading Program or even just working with the local churches to reach out to the youth.

During my time here, I made sure to work with people in the community who wanted to help me accomplish the goals of community and civic engagement. I found it was important to work alongside those who share your hopes and dreams for a community.

Such people include Mark Shatzel, Barry Anderson, Jennifer Wilkins, Allie Willis, and many more! With the help of the network I connected with in Collinsville, I was able to accomplish projects I would have never thought possible.

Madison and Mark building raise flower bedsI was able to successfully build a raised garden bed, learn about the planning of a park, work with kids during the reading programs and also conduct a dance program.

Meeting a plethora of people allowed me to expand my network and knowledge. I was able to count on those I met.

From my time in Collinsville I have learned that simply being engaged in whatever is happening is enough. You do not have to make some big donation or other major contribution in order to make a positive impact on the community. Just having a supportive attitude and spirit is all that you need to make a difference.

I discovered that Collinsville does an admirable job when it comes to bringing everyone together. Despite ongoing projects and everyone just living their own lives, there is always time to take a step back and come together. Collinsville taught me to slow down and just enjoy life.

No matter how slow the day may seem, there is always something to do. Whether it be talking to a new person or interviewing them for a story or just exploring a new part of the town, there is always something to be discovered.

Democracy in Collinsville is alive and well. There are individuals who want to see their town succeed and a variety of people getting involved. Some are working on new developments while others are working on the preservation of the downtown area.

Either way, those who strive to keep the integrity of the town should be praised for wanting to keep Collinsville looking its best.

Collinsville has taught me so much about myself. I have learned to pay attention to those around you and also your environment. I have learned to take the time to get to know everyone. There is always a lesson to learn from everyone. I have gained even more confidence when it comes to meeting strangers than I had before.

It seems that in a short ten weeks here, I have changed. I have experienced new feelings, met new people, and formed a family in a town that I never knew existed before this summer.

This blog post does not even come close to how I feel about Collinsville. This town has taught me so much, and I will always remember everyone I have met here. Though I am leaving this town, a part of me will remain there.

Madison in front of Collinsville signI feel like I have a second family to call my own, know more about the behind the scenes of what it takes to plan a community event, and have even more awareness of myself.

Thank you Living Democracy, thank you David Mathew’s Center for Civic Life, and thank you to everyone I met in the town of Collinsville.

It was a pleasure to get to know everyone. From speaking with everyone, I was able to understand that everyone in the town was connected and involved in something. And, from that, I was able to truly understand how democracy works.

Last Updated: August 10, 2016