June 5, 2023

It is so easy for those of us living on campus to build our entire world in the 92504 ZIP code. After all, I can get food, exercise and see friends all within a square mile. What more do I need? And, if I want some adventure, the sprawling Los Angeles landscape is a short drive away. Yet the vibrant community of Riverside exists right on our doorstep.

There is a sore lack of investment in the Riverside community from CBU students. In fact, the community seems to be struggling as a whole. 

Justin Pardee, a CBU alumnus and entrepreneur, said that the Riverside community is fragmented.

“This is my absolute belief,” Pardee said. “If you were to pick Riverside up and pull it out of Southern California and drop it just about anywhere else in the country, it would be (a city) that everybody knows.”

Pardee compared Riverside to Lawrence, a city in Kansas. Lawrence has a lower population than Riverside but is fortunate enough to be far away from other major cities. While Riverside remains in the shadow of Los Angeles, Lawrence developed on its own. As a result, its community enjoys far superior restaurants and nightlife, as well as supporting a vigorous music scene. But why would an artist bring their concert to Riverside, Pardee asked, when Los Angeles is just an hour away?

While that may be a fair question, is that truly fair to the 330,000 residents of Riverside? Probably not. So how do we make Riverside, as valuable as Lawrence, Kan.

Interestingly enough, Lawrence is home to the University of Kansas, just as Riverside is home to CBU. Surely Lawrence’s vibrant community greatly benefits from the influx of KU students. After all, there is not a more alluring city in the area. And if KU can be vital to Lawrence, why can’t CBU be vital to Riverside?

What if, when the world is safe again, CBU students were the first customers at local coffee shops? We could be the first to fill up theaters and hike back up Mt. Roubidoux. 

And maybe, just maybe, we could be an inspiration to the community. By our patronage to the city, we could remind our neighbors that Riverside has much to offer.

Malcom Gladwell, a promient journalist and author wrote in his best-selling book “Outliers: The Story of Success,”:

“What we do as a community, as a society, for each other, matters as much as what we do for ourselves. It sounds a little trite, but there’s a powerful amount of truth in that, I think.”

If I just stayed in my apartment, I think I would have missed some amazing moments. I would miss skating down to Tyler Mall or catching a cup of coffee at Condron with the boys. 

I would have missed touring the Town Hall and Courthouse. Man, I’d have missed thousands of fearless residents flocking downtown to protest police brutality.

I would have missed a lot. And the more I think about it, the more I want to be involved. I may only be here for four years, or I may spend the rest of my life here. Regardless, the value of investing in the community remains the same.

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