Big Small Town

January Great Story by Andrew Wakelee, 2018-19 Central Coast Climate Fellow

My hometown of Ventura is a big small town. When both sets of my Grandparents arrived here in the early 1960s from upstate New York and Ohio to find better weather and opportunities, Ventura was a rural town of a mere 20,000 people. Today it is home to well over 100,000 people yet still maintains that small town feel. For a sprawling city, it also maintains a strong, tight knit community. The strength of this community was most apparent following the devastating Thomas Fire in December 2017, as friends and perfect strangers did everything they could to help those who had lost everything. One of the most rewarding things about doing my service project back home in Ventura is being able to grow and tap into the many connections of that community in unexpected ways.

There have been scores of people I know from having grown up here who have become involved with my project in both direct and peripheral ways. One of my assistant principals from middle school, who now leads our school district’s multilingual K-12 programs, is helping us with our EV outreach to Ventura’s Latino community. The husband of my 2nd grade teacher is supporting our efforts to bring more EV chargers to the University he works at. A family friend who now lives in San Luis Obispo is coordinating with our coalition to develop an EV website for his new city. The list goes on.

Going forward, I’m most excited about recruiting students from my alma matter Ventura High School for our volunteer engagement project and adding the next generation to my community network. As we have already directly felt the disastrous consequences of climate change here in Ventura, I hope that the next group of leaders will be equipped to handle this existential threat. I know that this resilient big small town is up to the challenge.