Service outside the bubble

Photo courtesy of Allie Ghisson, Student Publications

Every few months there seems to be a new post on the Tech subreddit asking about the safety around campus.

Many students jump in to comment with the traditional safety tip answers that seem like common sense to anyone that’s been on a college campus.

“Try to walk in groups at night.” “Ladies, carry pepper spray with you.”

“Don’t leave the Tech Bubble and you’ll be good.”

While all of these tips are great and should be noted by any student, I find our reliance and insistence on the “Tech Bubble” to be strange, to say the least.

To me, the bubble that hypothetically surrounds Tech seems to be coded language for the invisible and harmful line we have drawn between ourselves and the Atlanta community.

It’s no secret that nearly everyone that’s been admitted to Tech was involved in community service in high school.

Whether it was through your required National Honor Society hours, or any other number of organizational commitments, we had to prove ourselves as community leaders in order to get into this school.

For some, if not most, the commitment to community service stopped there.

I know for me personally, once the realities of the Tech course load hit me, my opportunities to dedicate myself fully to community based projects seemed few and far between.

I participated in a handful of projects here and there, including a trip down to Florida with a campus ministry to do hurricane relief work, but other than that I was no longer putting in the hours into my community like I used to do in high school.

I had grown content in my Tech bubble.

There was no reason to leave the library to engage with the community around me when there was reading to be done and papers to be written.

In exploring what it meant to pursue Tech’s motto of “Progress and Service” I found myself straying further and further away from the service part as the stress of school got to me.

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of holding a conversation with Frank Brown, the current CEO of Communities In Schools of Atlanta.

CIS Atlanta is a non-profit organization that focuses its mission around supporting students and providing them with the resources they need in order to achieve in school.

During our talk, Mr. Brown brought up some points that really inspired me to reflect on the ways Tech students interact with the Atlanta community.

He discussed the fact that Tech is just down the street from some of the schools that CIS serves, and how disconnected our school is from the community.

He brought up the point that it does not really make sense for Tech to recruit all of these students who are math gods and science geniuses when the K-12 kids around us have some of the lowest proficiency in STEM subjects, with that divide becoming even worse with the switch to virtual learning throughout the pandemic.

I walked away from that conversation feeling like I had failed my former self.

As someone who spent many of their free afternoons at the Boys and Girls Club back home, I wondered why helping the community around my new home of Atlanta seemed far-fetched.

I then realized that a lot of my feelings went back to the concept of the Tech bubble and our propensity to not stray too far from it.

When it comes to service at Tech, I feel as though a lot of student leaders share the same goals of making this campus a better place for all students.

I heavily commend my peers for these goals and the progress they have made towards them.

Still, I cannot help but to think about the different parts of the community that our efforts don’t always reach because we’re mentally confined to our campus bubble.

Tech often encourages us to think globally when it comes to things like mottos, missions and strategic plans.

However, I would like to encourage you to think locally and realize that you can make a tremendous impact on the community around you with the resources and knowledge you possess.

I encourage you to reach out to people and organizations around you and figure out how you can serve not only the Tech community, but how you can pop that bubble in order to serve the greater Atlanta community as well.