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When most students decide to move off campus, deciding factors include cost, convenience and comfort.
For some students, however, their faith and career path made them choose a place farther from campus in a neighborhood that some in Jackson feel is unsafe.
In May 2012, seven members of City Fellowship Baptist Church and Union students moved to downtown Jackson into what is now known as the “City House,” located a few blocks away from the popular Green Frog Coffee Co. and the newly designed Jackson Walk.
Courtney Searcy, senior art major, was one of the first to move in to what has now been home to more than 14 Union students in the past year.
“When the time came to decide about living situations,my roommate, Hannah Craddock, had envisioned a house where girls from our church would live and be a part of the neighborhood, and the house would function as a hub of ministry,” Searcy said.“It is a matter of living and serving where you are called and trusting that the Lord will protect you rather than only living where it is comfortable and safe.”
City Fellowship is located downtown, so the appeal to be closer to church and the other families that attend was encouraging for Searcy.
Despite a nervous buzz that arises when living downtown comes into the conversation, Searcy has never felt unsafe.
“That’s not to say that I’ve never had to be cautious, but regardless of wherever you are called to live I think you should be serving your neighbors,” Searcy said.
The front porch of the house faces a main strip of downtown, and people can stop by and say hello anytime.
“One time it was pouring down rain and a woman was walking her daughter home, so she came and took shelter on our porch,” Searcy said. “Its nice to have that, and its nice to provide that. (Living off campus) you begin to learn to engage your neighbors who don’t have as many connections to you as someone in a dorm would.”
Even though the house is a few extra miles away from campus, the drive each day is worth it, she said.
“Being a graphic design major, it’s a good atmosphere to be creative,” Searcy said. “I think midtown is an area with unique homes with a lot of character, and the aesthetics of midtown appeal to me.
“In the afternoons when the sun is going down, and I am driving down the street seeing the quirky and cute houses all glowing orange — its just the best.”
Austin Gray, senior theater major, lives in the same area and also enjoys the unique qualities of the houses in midtown Jackson.
“We wanted to live in this area because we thought it had character,” Gray said. “The houses up north closer to Union all look the same and they are more expensive, but down here you can get houses that have little quirks to them.”
Gray attributes the chipping baby blue paint on the siding of the house as a character trait that may not be found in the upscale parts of Jackson.
“It has become my neighborhood,” Searcy said. “For my super senior year, I moved a few blocks back to a different house … but living in the ‘City House’ was always an adventure.”
In September, Searcy, along with other members of City Fellowship, will travel to New Orleans, La., for The Christian Community Development Association annual conference.
She said sessions about art in the community caught her attention because she would like to engage in that project after graduation this spring.