Friday nights come alive at Georgia Gwinnett College

Carl Woods

Carl Woods said students are hungry for social interaction.  

By Collin Elder

While COVID-19 may have dealt a blow to many college extracurricular activities, Carl Woods, director of wellness and recreation at Georgia Gwinnett College, believes students still needed something to do that was safe, fun and healthy.

Enter Friday Night Lights, an event where Woods invites GGC students to socialize, get some good food and work out. Held two to three times each month during the fall and spring semesters, Friday Night Lights attracts an average of 200 students, who work out not just their bodies but their minds.

“It comes down to mental health,” said Woods. “Students are looking for social interaction, and they’re able to get it during the Friday Night Lights events."

The college experience has changed in the wake of the social changes from the past two years, and the usual outlets for energy for these students are slipping away rather than growing, Woods said.

Quandarius Malcom, 21, an Atlanta native and sophomore at GGC, said he’s involved because it’s a healthy and beneficial way to network with his peers.

“I’m an athlete, and this is a good way to get moving,” he said. “It keeps you involved and out of trouble.”

Along with keeping students involved, Woods said the Friday Night Lights events help his student workers learn how to lead.

“Students come in and they’re hungry for activity. My employees help guide them, which develops autonomy in both parties, and gives my employees valuable leadership experience,” he said.

Kelly Simpson, 31, a senior at the college and Grayson native, works alongside Woods as his senior employee. She said the event exposes students to wellness programming, a key part of maintaining a healthy mindset and body.

Students have access to exercise equipment, and many take advantage of the free time to get in some reps before a game of basketball or a bite from the Waffle House food truck, one of several food trucks that come to campus specifically for the event.

Woods is proud of the growth of the event, which continues to expand.

“With this growth, we’re hoping to develop a holistic approach of keeping students involved. Keep them involved and keep them open to as diverse opportunities.”

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