Community Welcome strengthens bond of City of Fort Collins, CSU community

Clarissa Davies

A room of 200 eager people gathered in the Lory Student Center Grand Ballroom before venturing out to strengthen bonds between the Colorado State University community and the City of Fort Collins Wednesday evening.

CSU students and faculty go door to door along with peace officers speaking with Fort Collins residents, welcoming back students, and talking with families during the first week of classes for the 15th annual Community Welcome event.
Members of the CSU community go door-to-door, along with peace officers, speaking with Fort Collins residents, welcoming back students and talking with families during the first week of classes for the 15th annual Community Welcome event. (Photo Credit: Topher Brancaccio).

Entering its 15th year, the Community Welcome event, sponsored by Off-Campus Life, offers an opportunity for students, faculty, volunteers, city residents and community police officers to gather and educate the community on the importance of good neighboring, safety tips and valuable information concerning living off-campus, all while celebrating and strengthening this dynamic bond.

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One of the targeted areas was the Avery Park neighborhood, with its boundaries being West Elizabeth Street and Prospect Road to South Shields Street and South Taft Hill Road. This area is where the City of Fort Collins will be proactively enforcing an occupancy limit starting in January. Avery Park is heavily student populated, so there may be some tension between long-term residents and students in this neighborhood.

“This allows the campus community, including the police department, to engage with the community where we can share information, bring the community closer, welcome first- and second-year students back to school and really engage with our neighbors,” said Lt. Adam Smith. “That wouldn’t be possible otherwise.”

With low violent crime rates, the City of Fort Collins is a safe place to live, said Smith, who has been an officer at Colorado State University for 15 years and has participated in the Community Welcome many times. In order to facilitate a positive conversation with residents, teams of volunteers walked to 2,000 residences to deliver welcome packets, brochures and resources.

“There are less issues and crime when people know each other,” said Colorado State Community Liaison Emily Allen.

This year, CSU President Tony Frank and Fort Collins Mayor Wade Troxell were involved in creating positive relationships between the city and the University. Community Welcome was started in order to build bridges between students and long-term residents by integrating those living off-campus into the community.

“As society has changed over time, we have lost the practice of getting to know the people who live around us,” said Jeannie Ortega, director of CSU Off-Campus Life. “We want to bring that grassroots, basic information back to the student community.”

About 200 people participated in the Community Welcome this year. Students at CSU said it was a valuable opportunity.

“I enjoy the Community Welcome walk is because it’s a chance for us to go out and meet the long-term residents of Fort Collins and get to hear their story and their perspective of living in Fort Collins,” said Nick Dannemiller, a senior wildlife biology major and ASCSU chief justice. “You learn a lot from the community members, and they see that college students care about the community they’re living in.”

Collegian Diversity Beat reporter Clarissa Davies can be reached at news@collegian.com and on Twitter @DaviesClarissa.