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Michaela Verrico, a dance major from Buffalo, New York, stands in front of her home on Feb. 19, 2022.

Longtime Athens residents, OU students talk school, town relationship

The small town of Athens is known for being the home of Ohio University. Throughout the years, longtime residents have experienced all the partying and chaos that students have brought with them. 

Bozeman Koonce, a sophomore studying geography, has lived in Athens almost his entire life. Koonce said many Athens High School graduates like himself choose to attend OU because they already know the community after growing up in the area. 

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Bozeman Koonce, Ohio University sophomore and Athens Native, sits in his parents backyard on the east side of Athens on Feb. 20, 2022.

During his college search process, Koonce considered moving out of Athens. He eventually chose to attend OU because of how easily he could transition into his major and other financial reasons. 

“I know the community, and I know people here,” Koonce said. “I can integrate into a major and pursue something that is something I enjoy.”

Koonce initially wanted to commute to school instead of living on campus. However, his parents wanted him to experience life in the dorms to get the full college experience. 

Koonce said he has always been integrated into life around campus because both of his parents work at the university. Living close to campus, it also made him upset to see how frequently students would party in the area. 

“I became kind of resentful of the high amount of partying, just because it’s become so saturated,” Koonce said. “They didn’t grow up somewhere like this. I find it repulsive to walk past the coal miner mural and the diner on Court Street anytime past 11 p.m.”

Koonce also believed the divide between the Athens community and OU students is prevalent, but students ultimately impact the city positively. 

“I think the students are overly hated by the people in the community who aren’t affiliated with the university, because they're seen as the outsiders who came into the community,” Koonce said.

Jolene Quirke, owner of CrossFit SEO, has been an Athens resident for over 20 years. Originally from Cincinnati, she moved to the city in 2001 to attend OU. She chose the school because of how many friends she knew were going and how beautiful she thought the campus was. After Quirke graduated, she decided to stay and eventually open up her CrossFit gym in the area. 

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Jolene Quirke teaches at her gym CrossFit SEO on Union St. on Feb. 19th, 2022.

Despite OU’s possible party school image that affects the town, Quirke said the students bring a lot to the city and help local businesses like hers thrive.

“I think without the university, the town would struggle,” Quirke said. “I mean, I struggle when the students are gone.” 

Michaela Verrico, a junior studying performance and choreography, is originally from Buffalo, New York. She chose to attend OU because of her specific major and the school’s affordability. 

Verrico said when she chose the school, she did not know the city of Athens or the party school image that OU had at the time. Her first time visiting the school was to audition for the dance program. 

She said she has grown to love the city but could not see herself living here long-term. 

“It’s a really good college experience, I think, but it does get a little too small for me,” Verrico said. “Since I’m in dance, I need to be in a bigger city.”

During her time, Verrico was able to explore the city outside of campus. As a sophomore, she would take walks around town and check out local businesses like Kindred Market and Athens Bread Company. She said she has learned to appreciate these businesses and the local art the city has to offer. 

Although a possible party image may impact the city, Verrico said the university’s location within the city benefits local businesses.

“I think that a lot of the college kids help some of these small businesses for sure, because it’s such a small city in general,” Verrico said. “So I think that the college kids do bring a lot more business to these small businesses and to the community.” 

Quirke’s biggest encouragement to students is to continue supporting small businesses in the area and not take the small city of Athens for granted. 

“We could tell students, and just me being a small business owner, to support small businesses,” Quirke said. “They depend on students. We will embrace you, and we want you to come in … because we learn from one another.” 

@hannahcmpbell

hc895819@ohio.edu

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