Breaking New Ground, Literally and Figuratively

I think at some stage, each of us works hard for something that we believe in.

Sometimes it’s a small thing, like appealing that parking ticket that you know you shouldn’t have gotten. Sometimes it’s a big movement, like fighting for equal rights or constitutional freedoms. Often, no matter how hard you fight, you don’t get what you want. You push and fight with the faith that your hard work will make a difference, but you can’t ever really see any concrete results.

This had always been my experience.

I started my civic involvement by going to school board meetings and advocating for my children’s school and programs in the budget. This led to working to get school board candidates elected, and eventually running for the school board myself. I’ve been involved with many different advocacy efforts over the years. I’m still involved in quite a few, but most fall into the category of the long term fight fueled by faith that things will be better bit by bit sometime in the not-too-distant future.

So it’s so incredibly exciting to have fought for something hard and actually see it happen. During my last year on the school board, passing a referendum for an updated Albany High School became my passion and driving force.

The building at that time, despite years of repairs, needed a major overhaul. To touch on just a few:

– The HVAC system was leaking throughout the building, and because it was built in a time when one overall zone was in fashion, it was a major expense that was completely immersed in the current structure.

– The roof was well past its life expectancy.

– The metal walls, which seemed like such a good idea back in the 70’s, allowed sound to echo through the classrooms, presenting real challenges to teaching our kids.

The project was divisive, and for good reason. Taxes are high in Albany, and adding to that burden is always a difficult choice. The process of working to pass the vote was an incredible one. I met so many people for and against the project, learned more about the city than I ever expected.

I learned a great deal about myself, too. There’s nothing quite like standing alone in front of a very unhappy crowd full of people with questions, being to answer them, and leaving with mutual respect on all sides.

Recently, we were able to kick off the groundbreaking for Phase 2 of the project. As a girl who has always loved the process of things, and the excitement of giant machinery, I have loved every minute of watching the first building go up. The friends that I made in discussing the project within the school district and beyond have tolerated me coming around to watch each amazing layer come together into a final product.

I know that most causes I work hard will probably never come together quite like this, so I’m loving every minute of it. And it helps me keep fighting in the places that I’ll never get to see the same immediate satisfaction. I think the best lesson I learned was that everyone cares. For or against, each person was fighting for what they believed was best for Albany. That is the real reason to fight for a community – because you don’t always have to agree, but without people caring, it’s not a place worth fighting for.

As an aside, yes, I’m fully planning on trying to convince Joe (Bonilla), Corey (Ellis), and Darius (Shahinfar) to learn to play instruments so we can use that picture as an album cover. And, yes, you will likely see more pictures of me climbing on construction machinery, it has become one of my very favorite activities.

(Laying the groundwork for Phase 1 building).



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