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Chino Hills: a city consisting mostly of matching, two story, track homes where families often attempt to hide their imperfections behind well-kept houses with flawlessly manicured lawns. I have lived in Chino Hills my whole life, and while the entire city is not like this, as I live in the one “blighted” neighborhood (as labeled by the local newspaper), the majority strives to be the iconic “white picket fence” family home. My parents bought our one-story house in the so-called “ghetto” neighborhood of Los Serranos, deemed so for the lack of sidewalks and curbs, and the older, diverse houses, 20 years ago before Chino Hills was even a city, and before the mass takeover of housing developments and shopping centers.
Growing up in the only “barrio” in a mostly suburban neighborhood, people often made assumptions about me or my family, based solely off of my geographical location in a city. It was often assumed that I was poor, and as a young child, one of my friends wasn’t allowed to come to my house because their parents believed I lived in a dangerous area. The distance between my house and the rest of “non-blighted” Chino Hills is a matter of blocks, and yet due to these few blocks people’s perceptions of me changed from that of a smart, carefree child, to somebody deserving of their pity. Through my young eyes I could not see why others had any problem with my house, my neighborhood, because I was not poor, I was middle class, and there was nothing that occurred in my neighborhood that was any more dangerous than the rest of Chino Hills. Now I realize that it was not my neighborhood or even my friends that were the problem, but rather the suburban environment which places more of an emphasis on image than substance. Never having been exposed to anything but typical suburbia, most of my friends in all of their suburban security had come to fear anything different, including my “barrio”.
However, living in Los Serranos has affected me in more positive ways than negative. I am very close to my family, mostly due to the physical smallness of my house, and by growing up in such a strongly bonded middle class family I was raised to place less of an emphasis on materialistic items and more of a value on strong moral character, kindness, and the importance of always working hard and trying my best.
Yet, as grateful as I am for everything my parents have done to ensure I always have a comfortable place to live, this is all I have ever known. I have never moved. Not once. Ever. I have become extremely comfortable exactly where I am, and, oddly enough, that scares me. While many of my friends are content to live, grow old, and raise their children here, staying in Chino Hills does not appeal to me. Rather, I dream of exploring the world, a dream which was sparked by the realization that there exists a life beyond white picket fences and competing with the Joneses. Experiencing more than just suburbia and observing other cultures-prosperous and impoverished, historical and modern-allows me to become a humble and more appreciative person who values the true importance of life.
Moving beyond Chino Hills, and instead toward the outside world-beginning with my journey through college-I will acquire the skills necessary to discover my full potential. I want to take all of the knowledge I have gained from school books and teachers and apply it toward everyday life. Instead of seeing the pyramids on TV or reading about the vast rainforest, I want to experience it all first hand. I want to sip rich espresso under the stars outside of a tiny café in France. I want to help build a school in Uganda for children who constantly live in fear because of the Lord’s Resistance Army. I want to surf the rugged summer waves on Christmas Eve in Australia and I want to yodel atop a snow-dusted Swiss mountain. My dream is to deepen my current suburban life with experience -priceless, legendary, unparalleled, worldly experience- and all of the knowledge and education that comes with it.
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