Gratitude for the Identity of Community

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Thanksgiving in the East Valley

Gratitude for the Identity of Community

By Aurora Saldivar, Coachella Unincorporated

 

In the spirit of giving, I would like to give a special thanks to the communities that have taught me the meaning of love, through the bonds of communal solidarity.  I owe an immense debt of gratitude to my roots in the Eastern Coachella Valley for teaching me humility and my Jesuit education for giving me the tools to recognize the community before me, and the roles to fill in it.

Growing up, there was an overhanging tone of isolation that came along with such a Spartan environment.  It wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I began to feel or even notice the communities that had been forming around me, in my neighborhood and in my local parish. At Xavier College Prep, we dedicated a year to praxis, community-based learning focused on action and experience.  It was through these programs and discussions that I realized how so many of the experiences and obstacles in my life where unique only to those living in the Eastern Valley. After this realization, I grew much more curious about the local community that I had for so long overlooked or taken for granted.  I became impassioned to look for ways of serving and that passion has now taken shape as part of my identity.

This new perspective, which I have been gaining steadily, has made me grateful for the time I am spending at College of the Desert, our local community college.  I know that my chance for university will come in time, but over the past few months I have gained a bigger appreciation for the sense of community in the Eastern Valley.  My unique opportunity through Coachella Unincorporated is helping me view the countless possibilities rather than the
obstacles.

Conversing with people on the streets and at local events, I am taken aback by all the common threads among Eastern Coachella Valley dwellers of ages.  The fundamental issues of access to healthy food, lack of clean water, and transportation are topics our group has covered because they are the dominant concerns of the individuals and families of this area.  With new eyes, I have grown to understand (and I dare say even love) the vastness of this rich community and its capacity to promote healthy and improved lifestyles for residents.

Now more than ever, the climate of our beloved East Valley is ripe for communal growth.  In the past six months, I have seen many stimulating changes dawning down East, changes that I am sure can be seen and felt by local residents. The dynamic city of Coachella has been the frontrunner for most of these changes, including
renovations to downtown Coachella, the opening of a certified farmers market, and the launching of the Health Corps Program at Coachella Valley High School.

I have the highest hope that similar community ties seen in Coachella will spread to other East Valley cities.  There also seems to be a surge of youthful voices comprised of East Valley teens who want to be heard and promote issues important to them.  The tool of social media has been a Godsend for spreading news about local community issues and events, helping to facilitate a new era of awareness that is spreading beyond highways.

Thanksgiving is a time for family to congregate, yet I have experienced nothing stronger than solidarity bonding residents of the East Valley together through our shared woes and hopes.

 

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