A week ago, I drove approximately 360 miles and 6.5 hours through the Columbia River Gorge, over the Blue Mountains, and across the dry high desert to the small town of Ontario, Oregon. It is right on the border of Idaho and the last stop on I-84 before crossing over the Snake River. There are only about 12,000 people living in the city, and I accepted an 8th grade math teaching position at their only middle school. I'm pumped!
Ontario Middle School is filled with staff who are so welcoming and willing to help me out. I have had so many people offer me a place to stay, to drive me around, and advice about the town. I have felt nothing but comfort in my new position, and I can't wait to meet my students! There are many positive things that seem to be happening in the district. There is construction on new buildings at the middle school and the high school, so it is clear to me that the kids have people who really care about them.
My home for the past week has been the friendly neighborhood Motel 6. It has been a nice place to relax while searching for a rental in the area. I ended up finding a great place in the north end of Ontario and plan on moving my small pile of belongings in tomorrow. The funny thing is that some of the people from my school have told me that it is the "bad" part of town. With drugs, drive-bys, and stabbings. Stuff like that. My immediate thought was, "Hey! It's just like home in East Portland!" After riding my bike all over the city, it really doesn't seem that bad to me. And besides, I believe that if there is something wrong with a neighborhood, you need to be the change you want to see there (I think that's a quote from somebody famous). I talked to Jen about it and we both like the idea of living in an area where we can be a positive influence, rather than just fleeing to live where nobody is struggling to get by. After just a week of being here, it seems to me that there is a great need in this city. There is a need for unity and integration between neighborhoods and communities. I really hope to help Ontario as a teacher and now as a resident.
My loving wife showed her complete dedication to me by being willing to move across the entire state, away from friends and family to a small town where we know absolutely no one. It has been very difficult being away from her and Nolan, but thankfully due to the internet and the new Google+ Hangouts (see pic), Jen's beautiful smile and Nolan's adorable noises are just a few clicks away on video chat. They will be joining me in just a couple short weeks, and Portland will be in our rear view mirror.
I believe we have a great opportunity to make a difference in the city of Ontario. There are many families here that are hurting, and I hope that the Riedl family will be one that others can look to for help.