Reece Parker: Students as a force for social good

The Leeds University Pen pal scheme at St Marks Gateway Church. PIC: Simon Hulme
The Leeds University Pen pal scheme at St Marks Gateway Church. PIC: Simon Hulme
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The relationship between permanent members of a local community, and students who reside there only during term-time, is often frayed.

This dynamic is intensified in Leeds, where students total a tenth of the city’s population.

For those who are born and bred here, the annual occurrence of students dominating the streets and clubs of the city can be frustrating.

Many locals treat students with contempt, seeing them as a scourge on the city who overload our police and national health service through their binge 
drinking.

For others, they are a necessary evil, needed to keep afloat service industries such as nightclubs, takeaways and taxis but otherwise contributing nothing of worth.

There is very little interaction between students and many locals, and I feel the city is much poorer for it.

I would argue that students do more for Leeds’ cultural landscape than they are given credit for, with much of the student population working tirelessly against the label they have been attributed.

There are numerous charity clubbing nights set up by undergraduates, most notably Brudenell Groove, who have run parties raising money for local charities ranging from MAP to Simon on the Streets.

Elsewhere, Student Action for Refugees work to assure recent arrivals in the city are assimilated into the population, helping them learn English amongst other services, whilst The School of English at the University of Leeds run an outreach programme where undergraduates send letters to isolated members of the community, such as the elderly.

The students of our city are a key part of the fabric of our local society, and their efforts should not be overlooked.

Reece Parker is Editor-in-Chief of The Gryphon at Leeds University

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