By Kennedy Tavares
The Town of Plattsburgh came together with the SUNY Plattsburgh campus for an evening of celebration Friday, Sept. 23, for the 7th annual CommUNITY Night that was hosted at Hawkins Pond.
Entertainment groups Jedi Dance Productions, Spicy Island Tings and the Plattsburgh State Gospel Choir put on performances throughout the event.
Lomeli’s, a popular Mexican restaurant in town, offered food available for purchase from a truck. The ice cream truck Mr. Ding-A-Ling, a staple in the North Country community, was also in attendance to provide desserts.
CommUNITY Night was started nearly a decade ago in the attempt to unify not only SUNY Plattsburgh students, but the town as a whole. This year, the night was hosted by the Student Association and the department of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
Travis Gorhan, SUNY Plattsburgh alumnus and, as of this summer, DEI’s multicultural student success coach also lent a helping hand in curating the event. Gorhan’s role as multicultural student success coach is to motivate BIPOC and LGBT members to do their best in school and serves as a mentor, counselor and academic adviser.
“I know when I was an undergrad here, there was always a campus event where you saw community members and community events where you saw a strong campus presence. I don’t believe there’s a lot of that going on now,” Gorhan said. “I want to try to help bring that back and really connect the community on campus with our at large community here in Plattsburgh.”
Strengthening the relationship between students and the larger Plattsburgh community has been a goal set in Plattsburgh Next, the strategic development plan that President Alexander Enyedi presented in February.
A year ago, a traffic stop that led to a Black student’s arrest resulted in tension between University Police and some minority students. UP officers attended CommUNITY Night to show their support. Lieutenant Eric Zalinski said members of the UP force came to CommUNITY Night to make amends with students and to show that “they’re not the bad guys.”
Peculiar Joseph, coordinator of student affairs and diversity for the SA, is another student who helped to plan CommUNITY Night.
“CommUNITY Night brings value to everyone,” Joseph said. “It shows diversity, gives people the chance to express their talent. It makes people feel appreciated in their community. It makes people feel noticed. People appreciate it, especially those who don’t get to be seen all the time and do so much. I hope that translates to not just community night but every other aspect of the school.”
CommUNITY Night won’t be the last community-centered event of the academic year. Plattsburgh can come to expect more events in the future for both students and town residents.
“The real emphasis on the CommUNITY night is the ‘unity’ part,” Gorhan said. “It’s about uniting everyone. No matter how we look, what our differences are, we are coming together for a common cause, which is getting the most out of life. We hope to do a lot more events where we are bringing the community and our campus community together and strengthen those bonds.”