My hometown of Yuma, Arizona, is one of America’s fastest growing boomtowns, and a wonderful place to live. Though I wasn’t born in the city, I’ve considered Yuma my home for many years now, and spent my happiest moments here. As corny as it may sound, I’m proud to be a “Yuman!”
My family and I moved to Yuma when my father was transferred here from Blaine, Washington. One of the first things we noticed, of course, was the gorgeous weather. After having lived near Seattle and being rained on for nearly six months of our lives, the endless sunshine we encountered was a welcome change! The hot, dry air and desert climate immediately said “home” to me, reminding me of my east Texas birthplace of El Paso. Of course, not even El Paso had 115 degree summer days, but I consider the heat a blessing after all the rain I sat through in Washington. Three months of wilting heat for nine beautiful months of gorgeous weather is not a bad trade at all.
The weather is one of the biggest attractions of Yuma, not just to me, but also to the hundreds of winter visitors, or “snow birds” as we affectionately call them, who travel down here every year in their motor homes to wait out the winter season. Every fall they come in droves to escape the snowstorms of their own hometowns, and certainly enrich the economy when they arrive. The population of Yuma nearly doubles each winter, making the streets a little crowded, but it is not an unwelcome change. Restaurants, stores, mobile home parks, and most of the historical landmarks make most of their money during the winter season. In fact, the snowbirds bring in almost three hundred million dollars annually, not bad at all for a growing economy.
Yuma is rich in history. The Gila and Colorado rivers converge in our town, making Yuma a transportation hub. Even in prehistoric times, Yuma was the easiest place to cross the rivers, as the Spanish conquistadors discovered when they arrived in the fifteen hundreds. The Ocean-to-Ocean Bridge, built in the 1920s, is the only bridge in America linking the Eastern United States to the West Coast, a true landmark for Yuma. The Yuma Landing Park, the Territorial Prison, and the Yuma Crossing are all interesting historical landmarks offering insight into the past and present of Yuma. For example, the Territorial Prison once housed the students of Yuma High School for a while, when their school building was infested with mold. That is how their mascot came to be “the Yuma Criminals.”
At first, I thought that Yuma wasn’t anything but another dusty border town; no thriving metropolis to offer distractions to a girl almost ready for high school. It didn’t take long before I discovered otherwise. There were three movie theatres open, many stores for any shopping a teenage girl could do, bowling allies, a skating rink, recreational parks, arcades, fast food restaurants, public swimming pools, a library, and skate parks. The city was even building a new mall around the time I moved here, and I was able to see the Yuma Palms from the beginning of construction to the opening ceremonies. With each new attraction came more people, all eager to be part of such a fast-growing community.
I became a freshman at Yuma Catholic High School when I finished junior high. The experience has been the greatest of my life so far, and I’m convinced Yuma is the reason high school has been such a positive experience for me. My high school is the newest in town; built in the middle of a farm field, Yuma Catholic was the product of the generosity of many private donors, and the place where it resides is called “A Field of Dreams.”
Yuma Catholic is a wonderful place, a true second home to me. A maximum of four hundred students attend YCHS at a time, making it a small community “where everybody knows your name.” The teachers were all recruited for the specific purpose of taking education to the next level for all the students, as a true college prep school should. Every student has a laptop and utilizes it daily, ensuring that the graduates of Yuma Catholic High School will have extensive computer knowledge by the time they graduate, a definite plus in today’s world. The school is small, caring, and high-tech, and I’ve never been as comfortable at another school as I am at YC. My senior class is the last of the original four classes to attend Yuma Catholic High School, and when we graduate, it will be the ending of an era. I have made so many happy memories at this school; I know I couldn’t have found a better high school in any other town by Yuma.
Finally, but perhaps most importantly, the reason why I love my Arizona hometown is the people that live here. I have never felt so welcome in any of the other towns in which I’ve lived. Every person I’ve met from the realtor who sold us our house years ago to the lady that sold me my burrito at lunch today has been kind. Though Yuma is growing extensively and has been doing so for several years, it still has a small-town aura about it. Everybody knows or knows of everyone else, and that makes us, as cheesy as it may sound, a big family.
I love Yuma. The weather, the economy, the history, the schools, the people. Everything about it has been a positive experience for me ever since I moved here. I’ve begun to think of Arizona as my home much more than the place of my birth, and can’t imagine wanting to live anywhere else. Many might complain about this town being “small” and “unvarying” but I love it, not in spite of, but because of those things. Arizona is truly, my home.