What do you admire most about your community? What would you improve?
A psychedelic haze of multicolored swirls and delicate little braids gyrates to the sound of rhythmic music. Tie-dyed shirts and dreadlocks have become the customary attire of every festival in Ithaca, New York, from the Apple Harvest Festival to the renowned Grassroots, but contrary to popular belief, Ithaca is not just the hippie city that smokes weed. It is a bustling college town that is home to Cornell University and Ithaca College, filled with international students and people from all around the United States. These factors foster an environment of acceptance and open-mindedness. With little idiosyncrasies such as veganism, the love of the local Greenstar store, and “Feel the Bern” paraphernalia, elements of diversity, beauty, and solidarity combine to make Ithaca my beloved hometown.
In Ithaca, I prefer to take the TCAT buses. I could say that I advocate for the use of public transportation because I feel an urgent calling to save the environment. In reality, I just enjoy conversing with the college students and learning about their cultures and their stories. I admired my hometown even more after Mayor Svante Myrick’s decision to welcome Syrian refugees, the influx of immigrants in the community has changed the dynamics of my city, making Ithaca one of the most accepting, caring, and diverse places that I have ever known. Fear has not managed to suffocate Ithaca, even in the midst of raging terrorist attacks across the globe, because Ithaca focuses on the inherent goodness of people and their diversity.
Ithaca’s distinctiveness reflects its diverse people and often, this uniqueness overshadows the town’s beauty. There’s no doubt that my hometown lacks the glamor of New York City and the allure of Los Angeles, but Ithaca still manages to satisfy its diverse population with its natural beauty. With an abundance of waterfalls, parks, as well as lakeside cabins and restaurants, Ithaca gratifies the hearts of hikers, tourists, and diners alike. Because Ithaca possesses a slightly underrated beauty, long-time residents, including myself, sometimes take the attractions of the town for granted, but we always appreciate the most beautiful aspect of Ithaca: the solidarity among its people. People in red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple attire flooded the Ithaca Commons following the Orlando shooting to show support for the LGBT community. By hosting this event, Ithacans demonstrated their intolerance for discrimination and violence as well as their support for the victims of prejudice.
In a tight-knit town where one person’s problem becomes everyone’s problem, the heroin epidemic has ruined families and devastated Ithaca. If I could change anything, I would find a solution to the rampant heroin addiction in my hometown, which has caused numerous overdoses and deaths. On the night of his high school graduation, my friend’s mother was hospitalized because of a heroin overdose, missing one of her son’s most memorable nights. This scenario perfectly highlights how heroin addiction has plagued the lives of Ithacans and their loved ones. Sadly, Ithaca’s diversity, beauty, and solidarity have failed to solve this lethal problem.