Downtown Portsmouth is a place I used to view apathetically as rather uneventful. However, through my recent time and experiences, both as a student and as an intern, I have experienced Portsmouth in a way that is far different from my initial assumptions.
I feel the reason individuals assume a community has stagnated is due to the lack of communication channels that individual holds. For example, as a college student, I felt a sense of being othered. When someone enters into a community with no preexisting relationship within, or around, the community, it can be difficult to remain informed regarding community events.
College students, especially freshman students in their first semester, are subject to both understanding and communicating within the community or they remain distant for fear of rejection.
This is something that happens to most college students who are entering into a new community. I was fortunate enough to become involved in the community and discover what truly goes on.
Main Street Portsmouth and the events they organize are a great way to connect with both the downtown and community. I personally feel a much deeper connection with Portsmouth in a short time here at Main Street. I have learned about things in which most nonlocals would never know existed without in depth research and exploration. For example, I had no idea that Portsmouth had a community garden that Kim Bauer and many others see to. Nor did I know of the great food here in Portsmouth, owned by families and those who support shopping small. I would say, though, it may be due to the fantastic guide I have had in Joseph Pratt. It must take a local to educate newcomers to the area, since there is no way for all of the great virtues Portsmouth holds to be discovered on newcomers own.
With that thought in mind, I challenge newcomers to get involved into the community in some way, whether it be through volunteer work, joining a group or organization, asking a neighbor or friend to show you some of their favorite spots, or however you can find ways to integrate yourself in our community.
I also want to challenge locals to not only find newcomers and reach out to help them find their spot in town, but to share the good that happens in our town, more than the exploitative stories that too many focus on.
People need to see the Welcome Center, the flood wall murals, local small business, and everything that makes Portsmouth what it is. Being connected with the community you live in will help you discover things you never knew about yourself or your home.
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