Georgia Impact

Students help with landscape revitalization at church

Stuart Harriot, Allen McDonald, Stephen Brown are students in UGA's College of Environment and Design who are working on plans for a revitalization project for Young Harris Memorial Methodist Church grounds. The objective is to create an inclusive and inviting park-like environment for the whole community.

The 109-year-old campus of Young Harris Memorial United Methodist Church in Athens will be getting a face-lift with assistance from University of Georgia students.

Students from the UGA College of Environment and Design assessed the 6-acre campus on Prince Avenue and drafted plans to update the grounds and facilities. Specifically, the church wants to expand its playground and enhance the presence of a community garden, installed seven years ago.

The students presented a range of possible designs, such as adding native plants and maintenance-free artificial turf in the community garden and incorporating symbols important to the Methodist heritage, including octagons that symbolize the Heptonstall Church in Heptonstall, England, one of the oldest Methodist churches in the world.  

Students Shaelyn Vering (left) and John Adeyemi present their final designs to church members.

John Adeyemi, a student in the landscape architecture design studio assisting with the project, said the group tried to keep in mind historical touches in designing a new playground and making the church courtyard less imposing.

“It feels good to know you can have an impact on positive change in the community,” Adeyemi said. “UGA is incorporating the community into the university and it’s something I love to do.”


CED professors take on about 15 community projects each semester, providing an opportunity for students to put their academic knowledge into practice.

“Service-learning is just the way we like to teach,” said Jennifer Lewis, outreach coordinator for CED. “Students develop a very valuable skillset that helps them hit the ground running once they graduate.”

Jonah Owens and other students in Shelley Cannady’s service-learning class are working with Young Harris Memorial United Methodist Church in Athens to help the church connect with the community through landscape design.

The church is using the student designs in its visioning process to help plan for the next quarter century, said David Wofford, pastor of Young Harris Memorial United Methodist Church. “My desire is to will us toward connecting with our community,” he said. “These designs will help us focus our vision on being part of the community and reaching out with purpose.

“These sorts of ideas and energies and passion don’t happen in a non-college town,” Wofford said. “This idea factory is a tremendous opportunity for us.”

It is a great opportunity for the university, as well, said Shelley Cannady, CED associate professor who is teaching the design studio.

“This is our way of giving value back to the state of Georgia,” Cannady said. “The students get so energized by real-world projects. I know from personal experience it’s frustrating to just produce paper (designs) in class when you want to make the world better.”