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Zoë – Baker City and New York City – Part 1 of 2

“I was born and raised in Baker. I’ve never lived anywhere else except for here and now New York. My mother left when I was one year old and moved to Southern California. I never met her again until I was 14. We met in Las Vegas. It was a weird coincidence. I was going with my grandmother to Las Vegas and I told my mom. She lived only two hours away so she met me there. My grandmother was kind of upset at first, but she said, “This needed to happen anyways.”

I was mostly brought up by my dad, but I lived with my grandmother and my uncle when my dad worked because he was a lineman and traveled a lot. My dad dated a woman who became like a mother to me. She was my stepmom, but then when I was in fourth grade my father passed away very suddenly from a heart arrhythmia. He had a love for basketball. That was one of the biggest things we did together. I started playing basketball in fourth grade and he didn’t show up to my first game which was really weird. My grandparents had taken me to the game because I’d stayed the night with them and he never showed up. That was the day he passed away. It was my first basketball game and he never got to see me play.

So I just continued living with my grandma and my uncle. They live over on First by the Catholic church and that’s always been my childhood playground. I feel like I was brought up in the most perfect area of Baker. I’m close to stores and close to all the schools. I was brought up by my grandma and my uncle, but also by my aunts and my other grandma. They’re super close to me and they’ve definitely shaped who I am as a person today.

In high school I had amazing teachers and some amazing opportunities were offered to me. Our English department took a group of 10 students over to China. It only cost $2,000 for each student for 10 days and we stayed in nice places and experienced so much. It still blows my mind how they got that deal, but we have a sister school over there and we visited two schools. I still talk to some of my friends that I met there. That experience was the first time I’d ever traveled. I hadn’t even flown in a plane yet, actually. Going to China just completely opened my mind to a whole new world. I remember driving in Beijing and going across a street that had six lanes on each side for traffic. It was insane, but I had so much fun! I just don’t have enough words to really describe that experience, but it’s so ingrained in me. We saw lots of touristy things, but we got a special experience going into the schools and seeing what a typical school day is like for those students. And they showed us around and we were being partners with them and doing projects together. That was the most fun part and ever since then I have just been very curious about the world.

The next opportunity was with my choir and it happened two weeks after I came back from China. We went to New York City and performed in Carnegie Hall. That’s when I was introduced to New York and I really loved it. Something just clicked with me – all the different types of people, all the commotion going on, and just so much to always be looking at. We were only there for four days and everything was very rushed so I always wanted to experience it more.

The next opportunity through my school was traveling to Costa Rica with Mrs. Butler. Costa Rica is probably the happiest place I’ve ever been because I love nature and one of the things I love about Baker is the forest being only 15 minutes away. I talked to a lot of people in Costa Rica. I remember one guy telling me a story about the compassion and the kindness of the people in Costa Rica, that you can go to the store and buy some groceries for dinner and go knock on a random person’s door and say, ‘Hey, I’m kind of lonely and I want to have dinner. I brought some supplies Do you guys want to have dinner?’ And they would invite you into their house and help you cook everything and you’d make new friends that way. I really loved Mario our tour guide. We would sit down and have conversations and he helped me write a bunch of postcards to my family in Spanish. Just having conversations with people who are not American and being outside of the US is such an education. It helps you learn emotional intelligence and communication and it opens you up to a completely different perspective.

I had many Social Sciences classes with Adriene Oster, Kris Pepera, and Ethan Wolston. They were the best teachers I’ve ever had. I loved them so much! Mrs. Oster taught Human Geography and that class blew my mind. She taught things that I’d never been introduced to before. I remember we watched Anthony Bourdain in her class and I loved his shows. Watching him was a great way to learn about other cultures. Mrs. Oster really made me start thinking about the world and global issues.

I took Mr. Pepera for US History and Government. I learned the basics of how government actually works. But the way he taught, you could tell that he really loves what he’s doing. When he’s teaching about a historical event he tells it as if he was there. Like actually at the Boston Tea Party! He really started my love of history. I had Mr. Wolston for Sociology and that class focused on social behavior and it just really piqued my interest. All three of these teachers totally ignited my passion for this field! Now I am a Political Science major and a History minor at Pace University and I would like to go to law school.”