Written by Josué (Class of 2027, Boulder High School)
The Importance of Community
Finding a place where you truly belong is an awesome feeling. For me, it wasn't a sudden realization, but more like a gradual feeling that crept up on me. I knew I had found my place when I'd get a text from someone checking in with me if I didn't show up to a planned meeting, and when I felt comfortable chatting with others about our struggles while keeping a positive environment. It was a remarkable moment when I felt like I was in sync with the room and everyone around me. In those moments, I felt grounded and secure, like I had finally found a place where I could fit in.
Community is a fundamental aspect of human life, and it can take many different forms. Whether it's based on shared interests, goals, values, or geography, communities provide a sense of belonging, social support, and a shared identity. In addition to these benefits, a community can also facilitate learning, collaboration, and innovation.
According to a recent report by the Harvard school of education loneliness is on the rise. The report suggests that 36% of all Americans - including 61% of young adults and 51% of mothers with young children - feel "serious loneliness". In fact, loneliness has been linked to a host of negative health outcomes, including increased risk of heart disease, depression, and cognitive decline. This trend is especially concerning for younger generations, who are increasingly likely to experience loneliness and isolation as they navigate the challenges of modern life. This is why community is more important than ever before.
For me, community has been incredibly important as I navigate my college journey. Moving to a new place can be overwhelming, and it's easy to feel like an outsider. When I moved to Boulder almost seven years ago from a rural town in Mexico, I was unable to find a community at first, but slowly in high school I started to create those connections. Having a community has alleviated the social stresses and provided me with a sense of belonging. Being part of a community has also offered opportunities for learning and growth, as I've been able to learn from others, share knowledge, and gain new perspectives.
One of the most memorable moments where I felt included in a community was, surprisingly, during the summer in the middle of the pandemic. I decided to join the Aquetza and Convivir summer programs, which allowed me to explore and celebrate my identity as a Latino immigrant. Through these programs, I learned about the history and involvement of my identities, and I was able to connect with other students who shared similar experiences. Listening to the stories of my peers and sharing my own experiences gradually helped me find my voice and realize that my opinions and perspectives matter. It was a powerful moment when we were able to connect and support each other, knowing that we were not alone. These programs gave me a sense of belonging and helped me feel included in a community that valued diversity and celebrated cultural identity. Right after the pandemic, my younger brother started high school, and I knew that it would be difficult for him to connect in his new school community. To help him find his place, I encouraged him to seek out clubs and activities that aligned with his passions and interests.
The Power of Community in College
In higher education, there are many different types of communities that students can be a part of, such as, academic communities, identity-based, social communities, and professional communities. There are also communities that are developed through programs such as Access Opportunity, where students may have a similar goal in mind such as being first generation college students. Programs like AO are a great example of how communities can be formed intentionally, with the purpose of supporting and empowering individuals on their journey towards achieving their goals.
Approximately one year ago, towards the end of the first school year after the pandemic, Osvaldo - a fellow AO student - took the initiative to re-establish the Latino Student Organization at our school (pictured above). This club's primary objective is to empower and represent Latino students within our high school. As I began to participate more actively in the club's activities, I found myself immersed in a vibrant community of bright individuals. It was here that I met some of my closest friends and some truly incredible people. Through community service and advocacy, we have created an environment that fosters learning about Latino culture in Boulder, as well as offering a platform for individuals to connect with the rich history of close-knit communities and families.
Helpful Tips for Finding Community Anywhere
In high school and college prep programs, I've learned some helpful tips for finding community. One of the most important things is to look for programs or groups that align with your interests. This will help ensure that you're connecting with like-minded individuals who share your values and goals. It's also important to stay engaged and involved, as this will help you build relationships and create a sense of community. Finally, it's important to seek out mentorship from individuals who have more experience and can offer guidance and support.
No matter where you are in life, finding community is essential for personal and professional growth. To find community anywhere, it's important to identify your interests, look for local organizations and groups, and be consistent and persistent in your efforts. By doing so, you'll be able to create a sense of belonging, build social support networks, and find opportunities for learning and growth.
Looking back on my four years in high school, I am grateful for the opportunities I had to build my networks and communities. As I prepare to embark on my college journey next fall and eventually enter the workforce, I am hopeful that the experiences I've gained will continue to guide and enrich my engagement with future communities. While I know that navigating new spaces can be challenging, I am excited to continue this journey and to embrace the opportunities for growth and connection that lie ahead.
Josué was one of Access Opportunity's Student Ambassadors throughout the 2022-23 school year. He worked on many different projects this year, but this essay represents his final work as an ambassador. To learn more about him, please visit his other blog post. We wish you luck as you begin your journey at Northeastern University next year, Josué!