In praise of a fine city

Right after graduation from UC Berkeley, I packed my bags and set forth on a 11-month journey with the Great Valley Fellows Program, during which I underwent a series of government, nonprofit, political-campaign and for-profit internships in Chico. In addition, I went through “issue weeks” in the public-policy arena, which includes water, media, and agriculture issues affecting the Central Valley.

When I first arrived, a Chico city official mentioned that this place was “an untapped jewel where people take the downtown for granted.” Chico is the only place that has its own special niche in the entire Central Valley, Redding to Bakersfield. It felt like I was in an oasis that possessed high qualities of life, friendly atmosphere, recreational activities, community service and a Chico State University campus that makes the downtown thrive.

For the first couple of months, I was unable to step out of my apartment because I was intimidated and scared in a predominantly Caucasian society. The fear quickly disappeared when Chico City Councilmember Dan Nguyen-Tan took me out for bike rides in Bidwell Park. He recommended for me to attend several functions that Democratic and Republican leaders attend that would give me a better insight into Chico.

I then worked with the city of Chico’s Planning Department, for which I surveyed 60 downtown business owners about their views of downtown. I continued by working with my nonprofit organization, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Butte County, and I participated in its annual Bowl for Kids’ Sake fund-raising event that would go toward its big- and little-brother/sister matching processes. I also worked on a political campaign for a congressional candidate, during which I walked door to door in the streets of Chico, with dogs barking at me to show their appreciation.

Finally, I finished my business apprenticeship with New Urban Builders. Its projects include the Doe Mill Neighborhood, Westside Place and Meriam Park. As I leave behind a report on downtown parking structure design study for Lot 1, I am proud to say that this report could influence city officials and managers someday to embrace my ideas.

Today, my impression of Chico has grown dramatically, and I would like to stay, but due to budget constraints I must return to the Bay Area. I will never forget my experiences in Chico, where I improved my communication skills through Chico Toastmasters, or my host supervisors, who taught me how to become a man. Chico is a welcoming community that offers a great place to live.