Galesburg is no Chicago. It’s not St. Louis or Minneapolis, not New York City or San Francisco. It isn’t even a Peoria. Galesburg is Galesburg, a small Midwestern town hit hard by deindustrialization and the changing economic situation, but with enough earnest tradition and steadfast commitment to transform itself into the 21st century. Galesburg is also your home.
Whether you are an administrator, faculty or staff member, or a student at Knox, chances are you live the better part of your year in or around Galesburg, which means that you’ve become a part of this place whether you like it or not. As a result, Knox students should become more familiar with their surroundings outside of campus and gain a better understanding of the town we live in for nearly four years of our lives.
While some students venture out into larger Galesburg, others stay within their small “Knox” community and speak of Galesburg and the “townies” who live there with contempt. Many complain that there isn’t much to do here, that they have to buzz to Peoria or Quad Cities every weekend for entertainment. Sure, there might not be mega malls, 200 theater options or luxury stores in Galesburg, but our small town does offer several other options.
Take a trip downtown and you’ll find several specialty shops and antique venues around Seminary Streets and beyond. There are several performances throughout the year of the Nova Singers, Knox-Galesburg Symphony and Prairie Players in addition to groups that Knox students and community members collaborate to perform. The Orpheum Theatre brings several wonderful performances every year and movies can be seen at the Galesburg Theatre.
But beyond that, beyond the entertainment and social activities, there are several opportunities for Knox students to meet with Galesburg citizens and learn about the important issues surrounding their town. There are volunteer opportunities in the schools and churches to become a part of the community as a whole. Knox students have been involved with Galesburg Scout troops and classroom reading buddies. Contact Kathleen Ridlon, she’ll get you in touch with the programs that peak your interest.
Some might even figure that because they are able to afford a nearly $40,000 a year education, because they’ve lived in big cities, or have international experiences that they know are beyond Galesburg. This simply is not the case.
Perhaps some of our reluctance to reach out into our community comes as a result of our location. Unless we have a car, students can only see the neighborhoods around campus, Monmouth Boulevard and Quick Sam’s, which are not necessarily the best parts of town. We might hear gun shots from the Quick Sam’s parking lot or see rough-looking families walking the streets around the courthouse and recoil into our nice, safe dorm rooms. But, there is so much more Galesburg out there, if we just take the chance to go out and meet it.
Many Galesburg citizens like to engage in conversation with Knox students and talk about their viewpoints and hear ours. They want to engage us in the same way we enjoy engaging others. Galesburg natives are interesting people who are worth getting to know, as are we and all people from different communities around the world.
Did you know that Galesburg has the Discovery Depot, a children’s interactive museum? Did you know that Galesburg holds the Black Earth Film Festival every year? Did you know that Galesburg is planning on constructing a national Railroad Museum?
Every year, at the beginning and end of the school year, and several times in between, Knox College President Roger Taylor asks a body of current and former Knox students what they will say when somebody asks them where they went to college. They will not look down at their feet and say “some little school that no one’s ever heard of.” They will proudly say, “Knox College.”
But then, what should we say when we’re asked, “Knox College, where is that?” Certainly not “in some small Midwestern town that no one’s ever heard of.” We should be able to say, “Galesburg, Illinois” as proudly as we say “Knox.”
This means we need to know the town and engage ourselves with it. We at TKS recommend that students who are not already active in Galesburg break through the Knox bubble and become more active in the community, whether that means volunteering, attending community art events, or just saying hello to the fellow you pass on the street everyday when walking to your favorite coffee shop. Who knows, you might learn something new or find a way of looking at the world that you never thought of before.