How can one define home? Is it a house or where the family is? Is it where one feels the most comfortable or happy? Is it the place that one would call their favorite? To me, a home is comprised of all of these elements and for me, Arizona is all of these things. Arizona is where I was born, and raised, and now where I choose to live as a young adult. It is where I intend upon settling one day. I cannot imagine living anywhere else permanently and it has shaped who I am today. Within Arizona there are so many places that I consider home, I don’t know how I would choose just one town. Would it be the town where I was born, Scottsdale, or the town where I lived for many years, Flagstaff? Perhaps it is where I live now, Tucson, or even the Grand Canyon where I have spent much of my time. There is nowhere in Arizona that is not my home.

I was born in Scottsdale, AZ and will always consider it to be home. Many family members live there; also, it is where I spent my childhood. I have memories of playing in a restaurant owned by the family of one of my father’s cousins, Los Olivos, which is a historic part of the Scottsdale area. After living in Scottsdale, I moved to Colorado Springs, but my parents couldn’t be out of Arizona for too long and when I was 12 we moved back to Arizona, this time to Flagstaff.

I feel incredibly gifted to have been able to grow up in such a safe and beautiful community and anyone would be lucky to do the same. Not only is it one of the most beautiful places on earth, but also it offers a perfect small-town life. I went to a small art high school and there is nothing like getting out of class and looking up at the San Francisco Peaks capped with snow and covered in pine trees when you know that just a few miles away is an equally magnificent, but completely different, place, the Sonoran Desert.

Flagstaff is my home, not only because my house is there, where my parents continue to live, but also because it truly shaped who I am today. It has an incredible community feel, which taught me to invest myself in my community through service and participation. All my life I felt that I could walk around anywhere, at any time and I was safe; I wasn’t scared of being harassed by many of the issues that plague larger cities. I was able to go downtown and be certain that I would see friends, as well as participate in community activities such as Salsa Dancing on the Square, Movies on the Square, and the Friday Night Art Walk. It was a great feeling to know that one could go to these events and truly bond with their community in a way that would be impossible in a larger town. Heritage Square in downtown Flagstaff is really the strong heart of a city that has a strong community spirit to match. I have rarely felt more at home than with my friends at a “Mercy Fall” concert just hanging out downtown and enjoying the music.

There is another place, though, that I discovered while living in Flagstaff and that is the Grand Canyon. My discovery of it was an accident at best. My first trip down the Colorado River was with a program based out of Flagstaff called Grand Canyon Youth. A local rafting company had had a cancellation and offered the trip to GCY, who in turn offered to take the Student Council from my school. We had about two weeks to decide if we wanted to go and then prepare for the trip. I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity because it was like “love at first sight” for me. I have now done four trips with the program, as well as many, many service learning hours and plan to get my river guide license within the next year. The feeling one gets at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, in one of our nation’s natural wonders, in that isolation, is incredibly powerful, and this place is right in Flagstaff’s back yard. This is just another reason that Flagstaff is my home; it is truly surrounded by beauty, in as little as five minutes to two hours one finds amazing places, ranging from Oak Creek Canyon to Mt. Elden.

When it was time for me to decide where I wanted to go to college, the decision was very difficult. In then end, however, I decided to come to the University of Arizona in Tucson. At first, I regretted the decision, because many out of state schools had recruited me, but after completing a year here, and visiting schools on the east coast I realized that this was the best decision. The University of Arizona is a really good school, and the opportunities that I have been offered here are equal to those one could receive at any school on the east coast.

Tucson has become another part of Arizona that is my home. It is a bigger city, but it has the feeling of a small town, with a rich history. When I am at work, school or participating in other activities I feel that strong sense of community that permeates Tucson, similar to the one I feel in Flagstaff. I think that people here have a real sense of pride and attachment to their community. It is filled with historic neighborhoods, not to mention the natural wonders that are offered by the Sonoran Desert, as well as a very strong sense of diverse cultures that manifest themselves in activities such as creative dance groups and local bands.

Another reason that I feel Tucson has become part of my home is that as everywhere that I have lived I have invested myself in the community by doing community service. It is different than anywhere else, however, because here I really made my own life and found my own niche, while before I was living where my parents chose and my activities were somewhat dictated by them. I have a great pride in my life here because I feel that I got out on my own and continued to live the effective lifestyle that I led throughout high school.

From the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, to South Tucson I feel Arizona is my home. All of my life here I have been surrounded by strong communities, natural wonders and cultural opportunities that many people have never gotten to experience. Everything that I love is here, from my family to my friends, from my school to my job, from dancing to spending time in nature, I can do everything that I am passionate about while living in small towns, with strong communities, but have many of the same opportunities that one would find in a big city. Arizona is my home because it is what made me the person that I am today.