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Athenians Host Informal Chats to Welcome Students Back

A group of Athens residents taking time to form an informal, welcoming committee of sorts for new and returning University of Georgia students. Five locals spread across the campus Wednesday and Friday to welcome students as well as parents, professors and administrators.

Credit Pat Priest
Athens residents and students taking part in informal campus chats. Left to right: Dr. Neal Priest, Andrea Wellnitz, Anna, Tarik and Rawan.

Pat Priest is one of the organizers. She says the friendly interactions can help encourage sometimes overwhelmed students.

‘We really just thought in these days when the world seems both mean and kind of dangerous,” Priest said. “And we know there’s a lot of anxiety among students generally and we thought they might be homesick so we wanted to be there, adults ready to talk and to listen.

She says the discussions were learning experiences for both sides.

“We gave advice to people about ways to get engaged in the community. We also learned from the young students and from other people passing by so it was really just a chance to connect, make those connections between town and gown.”

While the chats are organized by local Democrats from Athens-Clarke and Oconee counties, Priest says the conversations are not partisan and do not involve politicking.