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August 19, 2007
Students, residents join in Good Neighbor initiative
Guest column
Linda Convissor

 

What is the Good Neighbor Initiative? Now in its fourth year, this initiative encourages students to meet their neighbors and to work with them to build community and to keep their neighborhoods clean and safe. Although Good Neighbor is a year-round program, it kicks off each year with a welcome to students living in neighborhoods near campus as they return to town for the fall semester.

This year, volunteers will deliver "welcome bags" containing information any new neighbor could use, including garbage collection and recycling dates, Chapel Hill's noise ordinance, alcohol laws, voter registration forms, bus schedules and maps of downtown and the neighborhoods.

Sponsors of the program are the Chapel Hill Police Department, Empowerment Inc. and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Student Government, Dean of Students and University Relations offices.

When and where will these packets be distributed? Officers from the Chapel Hill Police Department Community Services Unit, assisted by Carolina's student government leaders and staff from the dean of students and university relations offices and Empowerment Inc. will walk through the Northside, Pine Knolls and Cameron-McCauley neighborhoods and deliver packets to new residents late in the afternoon Monday, the day before classes start. We hope to offer a personal welcome to the students, but if no one is home, the welcome bag and a door hanger explaining the program will be left behind.

How else is the word being spread about the Good Neighbor Initiative? A public service video humorously highlighting the principles of the Good Neighbor Initiative will air throughout August on Chapel Hill public and government access cable channels, Channel 8 and Channel 18. The video was produced by a Carolina journalism class led by adjunct professor Bruce Curran and professor Richard Simpson, who also play leading roles.

In the video, a couple of young students are annoyed and complaining about the loud music and party atmosphere at the house next door, where three white-haired gents are boisterously partying around a beer keg. The two-minute video is already a comedy hit on YouTube, where it has received a 4? -star rating. To view the video, search youtube.com with "Town of Chapel Hill Good Neighbor" or visit www.townofchapelhill.org.

What are some tips for being a good neighbor? Even though the public service video is comical, it serves as a gentle reminder that nothing's funny about having a bad neighbor. Here are some tips that will make living in close proximity a little easier:

  • Meet your neighbors. Invite them over for a cup of coffee. Early introductions are a good base for positive relationships.
  • Pick up trash in your yard and bring the roll-in trash cart and recycling bins in from the curb.
  • Keep the noise down. Remember that your neighbors may have young children sleeping or have to get up early for work.
  • Obey all alcohol laws.
Does Good Neighbor work? The idea of encouraging positive relationships between off-campus students and permanent residents began in 2000 with a block party in the Northside neighborhood. Each year the program evolves in response to feedback from police, neighbors and students. Besides the kick-off event, the Good Neighbor participants work together year-round to monitor any problems areas and to support good relationships between off-campus students and their neighbors.

Last year, UNC's student government petitioned the Chapel Hill Town Council for lighting and other safety improvements in neighborhoods where students live near campus. This is an ongoing, collaborative project that will benefit both students and permanent residents. Building on the Good Neighbor Initiative, the students are using their energy and financial support to make a positive contribution to the community.

What can you do to support Good Neighbor? Students make Chapel Hill a vital, exciting place to live. The initiative encourages students to meet their neighbors, follow town regulations and recognize the value of being good neighbors and good citizens in the greater community. As new residents, students can become part of the team that's needed to keep your neighborhood a great place to live. We hope that you will reach out to your student neighbors and welcome them to the community.


Linda Convissor is director of local relations for UNC-Chapel Hill. She can be reached at Linda_Convissor@unc.edu, or 962-9245.




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