By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
College students build cross-country path for private school
Maranatha Christian Academy students make their way Friday afternoon through a new trail on the school’s campus after a University of North Georgia recreation and leisure class built the trail and donated materials as a community service project to the private Oakwood school. The newly completed trail will also be used by the school’s newly formed cross country team as well as for a nature trail for walking.

A new cross-country trail is not only a place to be active, but is a lesson in generosity for a handful of area college students.

“We really needed a cross-country trail because ... it’s a new athletic event for us,” said Maranatha Christian Academy Principal Delma Simmons. “We didn’t have a trail and students were having to run out next to the road. It was just dangerous.”

Volunteers came from Tonya Butler-Collins’ introduction to recreation and leisure class. Rather than take a final exam, the University of North Georgia students leapt at the chance to include a community service project as part of their final grade.

Using the social networking site Facebook to organize themselves, they worked through the semester to map out the one-mile trail, clearing the woods surrounding the Oakwood campus and, when needed, cutting down trees to clear the path.

“When we were planning, we tried to dodge the trees,” said college junior Brittany Wilson. “So we kind of weaved (the trail) through (the woods).”

There was a trailhead extending around 15 or 20 feet, but other than that the students were on their own.

“I’m a biker and cross-country runner myself, so it feels good to give back,” Wilson said. “I’m always riding the trails and it feels good to make a trail for somebody else so they can enjoy it just like I do.”

Students also used their volunteer hours to paint a concession stand on the Maranatha campus.

“They’ve done a wonderful thing for us here,” Simmons said. “It makes us feel more a part of the community.”

The trail will also be open to the surrounding community, though Simmons said they are still working on those details.

Butler-Collins said while the experience of volunteering is a good thing, her students got much more out of it.

“They saw recreation and leisure is not an individual thing,” she explained. “It reaches out to the community. It changes lives. It could be that catalyst that brings people from deviant behavior into a place to where they serve others.”

Bryan Shinholster, a sophomore at UNG, said it felt good to help out a small school.

“I’m excited,” he said. “I’ve never done anything like this before, and I’m really proud of it.”