Collinsville youth offer snapshot of community
This week, I asked some young people from Collinsville to send me pictures of a place in their town that they were proud of with a few sentences explaining why. Their responses were so appreciated. Often, when people are interested in learning about a community and the issues that impact it, they are mainly interested in hearing the opinions of adults.
Business owners and adult leaders are often the people we turn to for an understanding of a community. And, to be sure, these people have viewpoints that are valuable.
But young people’s experiences are important too. Their education, friendships, and viewpoints have been shaped by their community, and they are just as capable of painting a picture of their community as any adult. Here’s a snapshot from some young voices in Collinsville.
The first student who sent me a picture was Emily Thrower, former cheerleader at Collinsville High School. She cites Chad Hawkins Stadium as the place in Collinsville that brings her the most pride, a place that gives her “chill bumps” each time she enters. Chad Hawkins Stadium is Collinsville High’s football stadium, named after former head football coach and CHS principal, Chad Hawkins.
Thrower said, “There is absolutely no better feeling than when your feet hit the grass” of the field. She added that she loved being there to cheer on the “boys who poured their hearts into something they believed every single week for six years.”
Even though she felt that cheerleaders could be overlooked by sports fans, the memory of “cheering on your team with a whole community also standing behind you in support” would last a lifetime.
Lily Wills is a CHS graduate and current student at Gadsden State Community College. She plans to transfer to Jacksonville State University soon to pursue degrees in education and occupational therapy.
The place in Collinsville that she is most proud of is the “iconic” Collinsville flea market, Collinsville Trade Day. Trade Day is a decades-old tradition in the area, occurring each Saturday morning, that attracts the most visitors of any other outdoor market in the area.
Wills says that the citizens of Collinsville “truly take pride in this business and would not trade it for anything.” She said she appreciated the diversity of people who come from “many different towns and states.” Wills advises any Trade Day visitors should try a corndog and lemonade. “It is worth the $5 every trip!”
Kaitlin Plunkett, a CHS graduate, is now a sophomore at Samford University majoring in pre-pharmacy. She hopes to apply to the McWhorter School of Pharmacy at Samford to continue her education.
For her, the most special place in the community is Collinsville Drugs. A locally owned and operated drug store, Plunkett describes Collinsville Drugs as “a great representation of how the love and support from this town’s people impact our small businesses.”
Because Collinsville is so small, Plunkett said, “It takes a lot of work and support from the community for a business to thrive” as much as Collinsville Drugs has. Plunkett said she feels that Collinsville is lucky “to have such great small businesses in our town.”
Mary Payton see her church, Liberty Hill Baptist Church, as a place in Collinsville that makes her proud. She said many small churches in Collinsville “close down and lock up” for various reasons, but that she is “proud of her church for growing instead of being stagnant.” She added that she is proud that her church “reaches out to the youth of the community.”
Payton also included a photo of a place in Collinsville that she loves, adding that this historic downtown building has not reached its full potential. This place is the historic Cricket Theater, built in Collinsville in 1946 as a movie theater. Mary said, “When it was first built, it was used frequently. But in time everyone stopped using it and taking care of it, so it fell into disrepair.”
About a decade ago, Payton said, the Collinsville Historical Association decided to create a project to restore the theater to its old glory. “While there has been a lot of work done, there is still a lot more work to go.”
Snapshots give glimpse of community
These five photographs are only a snapshot of all of the depth, culture, and community Collinsville residents know and love. But as someone who has only had the opportunity to visit, they do reflect a community that, while small, is deeply interconnected and tight-knit. This is apparent in the case of recreational activities like sporting events and in local businesses.
Collinsville is as an economic hub of the area, drawing in residents and visitors from other cities to experience offerings like Trade Day. Community is key above all in Collinsville where citizens seem to support each other. Seeing this town through the eyes of some of its younger residents has opened my eyes to even more of what Collinsville is and to the possibilities it creates for those who live there.
Please join me in congratulating Emily, Lily, Mary, and Kaitlin. Any Collinsville resident who would like to add to the snapshot by submitting photos and statements can send them to email@example.com.