University and downtown Florence work toward ‘college town’

Students gather for a music performance for Lion Night 2015. Lion Night is an event through SGA to connect the school and community.

While Florence is a town with a university, the Student Government Association is trying to make Florence more synonymous with the campus community.

The university is taking big steps toward this goal, said Student Government Association President Sarah Green.

When Green arrived at UNA, Florence was not much of a college town she said. She said she felt no one had university pride.

“It’s frustrating seeing the community supporting Alabama and Auburn instead of UNA,” she said.

SGA has since become a member in the Florence Main Street organization she said.

Legislative Affairs Committee Chair Hugo Dante said UNA is also a member of the Shoals Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Florence Unlimited. 

“What I have pushed this year is for SGA to become a member of the Chamber as an organization,” he said.

By becoming a member of these organizations, SGA is trying to close the gap between the community and the student body, he said.

“We just recently submitted an application to the Shoals Chamber of Commerce,” he said. “This could be very big for UNA because our student leaders would begin to become involved in various organizations within the community.

“Partnering with our local communities, we can create a welcoming environment for students and also bring students out of the community and spread the economic boost that comes from our guys spending their tax dollars.”

Dante said in addition to Florence, SGA is trying to work with Sheffield and Tuscumbia to sponsor UNA days where students would be able to take a bus to downtown of each city, and restaurants and businesses will offer discounts to students.

Sophomore Shelby White said she would love for this change to happen.

“I believe there are things that need to be done in Florence to cause it to be considered more of a college town,” she said. “We need more restaurants, more hangouts and more activities on UNA’s campus. Overall, I am very excited to see how UNA makes big steps toward being a true college town.”

Green said building relationships with downtown businesses and other businesses close to campus will help to make Florence a friendlier college town.

“We want our students to get more involved in our town and our town to get more involved in our university,” she said.

Freshman and Florence native Foster Cox said he is happy to hear the plans for this.

“I actually already considered (Florence) a college town,” he said. “Many places in town offer student discounts, and at the beginning of the year there was an event called Lion Night designed to attract the students from UNA. Even stores and restaurants outside of downtown are beginning to catch on.”

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that SGA is a voting member of the city council.