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A dreamer and a doer: Kristina Patterson is a force for good in the midst of community complexity

Hands-on professor, mom, and community champion, Dr. Kristina (Tina) Patterson moved to Statesboro in 2018 and quickly became an integral part of local efforts to serve youth and address community concerns.

Dr. Kristina Patterson, known to most as Tina, has been building a bright future for Statesboro residents since she set foot here in 2018.

When she’s not teaching in the Public Administration program at Georgia Southern University, she’s regularly out and about in the community: helping nonprofit organizations write grants or work through challenges, deepening community awareness through meetings and events like the April 2024 Data Walks, and building up Statesboro’s safety net through the Statesboro Youth Commission and the Statesboro Village Builders.

On any given day, it isn’t unusual to find her leading a workshop for local nonprofit leaders, then coordinating a community initiative, jumping in to help with a departmental project, attending one of her son's school events, meeting with students, researching and writing, and, of course, teaching, which is one of her passions.

She fell in love with education when she taught high school social studies earlier in her career.

A full house at a recent nonprofit leadership workshops, hosted by the United Way of Southeast Georgia and the Department of Public and Nonprofit Studies.

While she has only been in the community since 2018, her impact and involvement is expansive. She played a significant role in laying the foundation for many of the grassroots initiatives that have begun during the last five years—citywide programs that strengthen our community by providing vital access to resources and information—where she continues to provide ongoing support. 

The time and effort she has dedicated to making positive changes in Statesboro are an inspiration to her students and her colleagues who joke, "You need to talk to Tina," she is a professor by day and grantwriter, advocate, and community organizer by night, on top of being a devoted mom, making sure to carve out time for school plays and baseball games between her community and work activities.

When Patterson first came to Statesboro, she was prepared for a one-year appointment as an instructor at Georgia Southern. She expected just that—to spend the year in Statesboro with her family, focusing on her teaching career.

She couldn’t have imagined the tremendous community impact she would have or the opportunities that would be in her future.

Those who have taken her classes or been in her nonprofit workshops know that Patterson is as dedicated as she is dynamic, with a passion for using her knowledge and skills to uplift and strengthen communities, individuals, organizations, and the list goes on.

She credits her passion for supporting others to her experiences growing up, her colorful career path which spanned customer service, teaching high school social studies, and even a brief foray into interior design, along with her educational background in psychology, history, nonprofit leadership, and public policy. 

Patterson’s creativity, dedication, and vast understanding of the complexities in community development have led her to make immense contributions to the Statesboro community over the last several years.

'Beloved' beginnings

Patterson can trace her significant involvement in Statesboro’s community development scene all back to a single encounter:

“I can pinpoint the moment when my life changed,” she laughs, “It was in October, and I was at the Kiwanis-Ogeechee Fair.”

There, she saw a booth for an organization called Beloved Community, and she was intrigued by their mission of creating unity across perceived differences. Beloved Community, a Statesboro organization that grew in response to community needs, was a catalyst for creating spaces to have open conversations in Statesboro, improving local lives in the process.

After her fateful encounter at the fair, Patterson said she kept the Beloved Community flyer for months before finally reaching out to Dr. Stacy Smallwood, the moderator of the organization. By then, she had been offered a permanent position in Statesboro and was ready to find a place where she could contribute to the community in meaningful ways—and contribute she has. 

Dr. Patterson and colleagues Dr. Candice Bodkin and Dr. Cary Christian from the Department of Public and Nonprofit Studies.

That willingness to serve, paired with her experience and expertise in civic engagement, led her to a myriad of opportunities:

As a member of Beloved Community, she was asked to volunteer for a Habitat for Humanity event, which led to her serving on the board for Habitat for Humanity, which eventually led to her involvement in the Statesboro Youth Commission, coming on as Co-Chair in 2019, and ultimately to working alongside Mayor McCollar, Lakesha Hill (who was equally involved as Co-Chair of the Youth Commission), and Tangie Reese Johnson, to start the Statesboro Village Builders.

They met after work, spending their evenings writing proposals and program outlines in the hopes of doing what they could to improve opportunities for others. 

Meanwhile, she and other members of Beloved Community were hosting “Bridging the Gap” events that helped participants deepen their understanding of one another and of local issues. It was a snowball of synergy and cross-pollination that gave Patterson insights about the community from the ground up. 

As the doors of Statesboro's community-serving organizations kept opening, she kept walking through them. Why?

"My goal is to use whatever skills and knowledge I have to give others agency over their lives," she explained as her life's mission, "I do what I can at the community level to help others lead the lives that are most meaningful to them." 

It isn't hard to see how that mission has come to life through her work in Statesboro: There's a packed house at the nonprofit leadership workshops she and her colleagues offer through a partnership with the United Way of Southeast Georgia, the Village Builders' family resource days are meeting essential needs in each of Statesboro's "villages," and the Statesboro Youth Commission is actively making a difference for the community's young people.  

Village Builders and beyond

Patterson has been an unstoppable force for good in Statesboro and beyond, and she is particularly excited about the future of the Village Builders initiative, which is directed by Dr. LaSara Mitchell. Patterson was instrumental in developing the foundation for the program and helping make it a part of the city's initiatives.

Village Builders exists to connect five identified areas in the City, or “villages” with resources to improve food security, literacy, healthcare access, and access to clothing through Mobile Resource Days. Staff and volunteers work with community members in each village to identify additional resources that can best support their families, and they collaborate with community partners to make these resources available. 

Patterson speaks to a group at the Data Walk. Source: United Way of Southeast Georgia Facebook Post

Two recent Data Walks, opportunities for community members to gain an understanding of the numbers and issues impacting the area, were another exciting development Patterson helped bring to life: 

"The conversations that evolved in the groups were wonderful and the general reaction of participants was that they felt 'seen and heard' and they felt hopeful that so many community members were willing to come together and have these conversations. We're excited to plan for next steps! These will definitely be the beginning of an ongoing conversation and more importantly, action," shared Patterson.

Welcoming change makers

Dr. Patterson serves as the co-chair of the Statesboro Youth Commission, as President of Habitat for Humanity Bulloch County, and as a member of Bulloch County Beloved Community. Dr. Patterson was instrumental in the development and implementation of the Statesboro Village Builders Initiative, a comprehensive initiative to support youth and their families in becoming the best version of themselves.

To get involved in these kinds of initiatives in the community, use the links above and explore opportunities to "say yes" and have your voice heard.