Columbia youths speak out on city growth
Christian Academy of Greater St. Louis, St. Louis, Mo.
Columbia teens and pre-teens know the city is growing, but some believe the growth is bringing it more in line with its larger cousins St. Louis and Kansas City. To others, Columbia is still mostly a “college town” with a small-town flavor. To those who call Columbia home, they are trying to take the steady growth in stride and adapt to the changes that come along with the population growth.
According to information from the 2008 Missouri census data center. Columbia has surpassed a population of 100,000, a growth rate of about 48 percent since 1990, when the population was 70,000.
In 2006, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated St. Louis had a population of abut 347,000 and Kansas City had 447,000.
The Missouri Urban Journalism Workshop asked young people what they think of life in Columbia.
While some pointed out challenges, most said they were happy to live here.
“I like the fact that it’s a small town,” said Sam Easley, a sophomore at Rock Bridge High School. “I hate when people complain about the size.”
Teens such as Easley cite advantages of living in a medium-size city: affordability, relative safety, less pollution and more privacy.
Education continues to be one of the major industries in Columbia. MU has helped Columbia grow. MU ranks 102 on a list of 1,400 on the U.S. News’ list of “Best Colleges 2010.”
As MU enrollment grows each year, so do employment opportunities, both for faculty and other workers.
In addition to MU, Columbia is home to Stephens College and Columbia College.
Although some people are comfortable with Columbia’s growth rate, others are opposed.
“I don’t like that it’s growing,” Kristi Webster, a recent graduate of Hallsville High School, said. “It’s getting too crowded and there’s not enough space.”
Webster complained about traffic congestion and bad drivers.
Another example of Columbia’s growing pains is the increase in the crime rate. The FBI’s Uniform Crime Statistics for 2009 reported that violent crime increased 28 percent in 2008.
Some of the younger residents recognize that crime is a growing problem, but they are still happy to live here.
“I love Columbia because it’s my hometown,” D.J. Loveall, a seventh-grade student at Smithton Middle School, said. “But the violence is bad, like people get beat up and stuff.”
On the brighter side, some youth point to the recreational opportunities that Columbia offers.
“My favorite part about Columbia is the free swimming,” Michell Nichols, a junior at Fulton High School, said as she spent the day with her mother and sister at Stephens Lake Park.