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University of Alabama Blackburn Institute students visit downtown Russellville

University of Alabama students from the Blackburn Institute visited downtown Russellville Oct. 29.

The student organization is a leadership development and civic engagement program specifically focused on improving the state of Alabama. The Russellville stop was one of several the group made as part of the Burt Jones Rural Community Experience. Other locations visited included Northwest-Shoals Community College in Phil Campbell, Haleyville, Oakville, Moulton, Courtland, Guin and Double Springs.

While in Russellville, the group talked with Mayor David Grissom at city hall. “We’re honored to have had a visit from such an engaging group of young people,” said Grissom. “I enjoyed the opportunity to talk to them about revitalization efforts in downtown Russellville, and their responses are encouraging for the prospects of similar efforts taking place wherever they find themselves in life.”

The group also participated in a discussion with Susie Malone, president of the Franklin County Arts and Humanities Council, at the Historic Roxy Theatre.

“The students were attentive, very interested in the history of the Roxy and the various entertainment productions held there,” said Malone. “They were complimentary of the theatre and appreciative of the opportunity to tour it.”

One of the students, Emma Kenny, named Russellville as being the favorite stop for most of the students. “The passion you all have for your community is inspiring,” said Kenny. “One of the people who stuck out to me was Ms. Susie Malone. She truly embodies what it means to love your home. The way she helped to bring such an important part of Russellville back like the Roxy Theatre helped show us the importance of working to grow your community.”

The students also spent time with business owner Chase Sparks at Russellville Florist and Gifts. Sparks said he enjoyed his discussion with them. “We’re so glad they chose Russellville as one of their stops for learning about downtown redevelopment.”

Kathryn Drago, coordinator of alumni programs for the Blackburn Institute, said the opportunities the group had to visit downtown Russellville and NW-SCC “helped provide our students with a better understanding of the strengths and challenges of rural communities, as well as grants they might be able to get to help them make changes to help them continue growing.”

Cokie Thompson, assistant director of the Blackburn Institute, said the students enjoyed their visit to Franklin County. “We’re really grateful for all the folks who took the time to speak with us,” Thompson said, “and show us around and help us learn what their community is about.”

“It’s always a pleasure to talk about Franklin County but an even bigger pleasure to show others our area,” said Franklin County Chamber of Commerce Director Cassie Medley. “The visit from the students of the University of Alabama’s Blackburn Institute was the perfect opportunity to share with others about downtown Russellville and the strides made to revitalize it, along with plans to continue doing so in the future.”

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