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

“The second time I went to New York City it was completely unplanned. I had a friend Maria who was a foreign exchange student at Baker High and I was going to visit her after she had returned to Norway. My flights were late and I missed my connections so I had to stay in the Newark Airport for 24 hours. I was only 17 so I could not legally book a hotel and I had to sleep on the airport floor. I woke up super early and did a couple of Google searches. I had two big suitcases because I was going to Norway for a month. I researched and found that Amtrak has a service where you pay them $10 a bag to hold your luggage. So I took the air train into New York and then I went to Penn Station and left my bags. They said, ‘You just have to be back by 6pm.’ And I said, ‘ Oh, don’t worry, I will because I don’t want to miss my flight again!’

When I visited New York with the choir we had gone to the 9-11 Memorial, but it was very rushed, so I really wanted to return because I love history. When I went back I went into the museum and I was there for about four hours and still did not cover everything. The museum is very interesting and very heartbreaking. I feel like you have to mentally prepare yourself before you visit. It’s very hard to go, but I feel like everyone should.

New York is wonderful. Being able to go to museums. Having access to art shows and thrift stores and all kinds of exploring to do. It’s so exciting! There’s just something about it. I feel like I can express myself any way that I want. I just feel like it’s a very accepting, loving place. And I wanted to go there for school specifically because of all the opportunities. I was super lucky to be able to work on a campaign as a community organizer. I’d reach out to volunteers to train and schedule them and recruit new people. I worked for Tricia Shimamura who was running for city council in the Upper East Side, District 5. Up until I worked on this campaign, I had just been interested in national politics. I’d never delved into grassroots local politics. It made me realize how important local politics are. It’s 10 times more important than what we listen to on the news. The bigger things we hear about do directly affect us, but the local things are what truly affects where you are living. I canvassed a lot and I got to talk to a lot of locals in New York. I talked to Republicans and Democrats. I had people yell at me sometimes, but I got to talk to a lot of constituents and they shared their personal issues within the district, everything from the need for a dog park to concerns about housing prices. I got to listen and relay it back to Tricia. It’s so interesting to see how talking to constituents goes up to a higher level, which then turns into an idea which then gets written and signed into a policy. It made me want to start learning more about Baker’s politics.

Something that Mrs. Oster said was that when you’re picking out your college don’t follow your friends because that will inhibit your ability to grow. You’re just in high school right now and you are going to become a completely different person, so you don’t want to hold yourself back from discovering yourself. It can be something as simple as starting to dress a different way. If you’re hanging out with your same friends maybe you won’t feel comfortable changing like that. And the thing is, change is amazing. I think no one should be scared of it. Don’t be scared to go away from home because experiencing a different area can help you learn so much. I feel like there are lessons to be learned from living with people who think differently. Don’t be scared to go out of your comfort zone. That may sound cliche, but it really will pay off and you will gain great social skills. You will gain confidence in your decision-making and your ability to take care of yourself. It’s also just a fun experience to figure things out yourself and mess up. For example, it took me forever to get down the subway and bus system in New York. Once I meant to ride the free bus for just six blocks, but the bus driver passed the place I wanted to go, drove in a circle, went onto the highway across the river to Brooklyn, and crossed onto another bridge into Staten Island! So even though something like that can be a frustrating and maybe scary experience, if you just keep your calm you can realize that it’s kind of a fun adventure and you learn something from it.”