A New Perspective on Hamilton City, by Cecilia Romero-Robles
Like many, my initial impressions deemed Hamilton City as a desolate rural community with nothing to offer. In fact, I would often regard it as a small town with a three-block radius. I was oblivious to the types of businesses and the individuals that inhabited this rural town. Moreover, my initial impressions were dismantled after exploring the town and conversing with the community members. It was the El Toro Loco market that made me recall the flavors and spices needed for a community to flourish. It was the carnitas from El Patio that was responsible for the many recommendations I have made thus far urging my friends to visit Hamilton City. But above all, it was the community members who were eternally humble and proud of their rural town that ended my initial impressions.
The “heartbeat” of the community varies by different age groups. In terms of the youth population, I would argue that the “heartbeat” of the community is the food truck located off the main road. It was through our conversations with the community members that they mentioned the taco trucks’ vast popularity. When interviewing Horacio, a Hamilton Union High School graduate and current Chico State student, he explained that the majority of high school students would merely gather around the taco truck. Moreover, the El Toro Loco market can be seen as the “heartbeat” of the community. El Toro Loco is a local market that caters to the needs of its community members, offering its community a wide selection of meats and seafood, a small produce section, lots of dry goods, and common Hispanic products. Nevertheless, El Toro Loco is more than just a local market that provides its community with fresh goods. It is a place where you collide with your next-door neighbor and converse about each other’s lives. It is a place where men and their friends gather outside to talk about their day’s work in the farms.
Aside from the captivating and delicious businesses, Hamilton City is most notably known for their high school, Hamilton Union High School. The public high school is locally well known because of its sports and agricultural program (Future Farmers of America) and because of its recognition as a California Distinguished School. Many community members shared that they have all had pleasurable experiences with the teachers working at Hamilton Union High School. The individuals stated that the teachers show genuine care for their students and go to extreme lengths to ensure their academic success.
Learning about Hamilton’s history allowed us to acquire a better understanding and appreciation for this rural community. With that being said, requiring students to learn about their town’s history is a practice that can be implemented within the classroom in order to enhance a student’s place-based learning. Likewise, having students read literature centered on rural themes, relevant to their communities, can also help students build a sense of appreciation for their own community (Azano, 2014). Additionally, requiring students to investigate and address community problems can lead students to better understand a problem, determine the barriers associated with addressing the problem, and develop an action plan for addressing the problem (Smith, 2002). Place-based learning enables schools and students to positively respond to their communities and possibly enable students to better appreciate the place in which they live in.
The vast amount of information that I have acquired through the exploration of Hamilton City has ultimately impacted the ways in which I think about working in this community. As mentioned before, my first impressions of Hamilton City were negative. Like many, I had several misconceptions about this rural community. However, taking the time to submerge myself within this community allowed me to foster a sense of appreciation. The community in itself is welcoming, supportive, and passionate. Such positive characteristics exhibited by the community reinforce my desire to implement a place-based approach. Essentially, the ultimate goal is to have students be appreciative and proud of the rural community they too call home.
Azano, A. P. (2014). Rural. The other neglected “R”: Making space for place in school libraries. Knowledge Quest, 43(1), 60-65
Smith, G. A. (2002). Place-based education. (Cover story). Phi Delta Kappan, 83(8), 584.