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Growing up with Values in New Paltz
By Jefferson Huang

I'd like to remind everyone in New Paltz of how special your community is. I've asked NewPaltz.com if I could share some of what I learned growing up there, and how everyone in the town taught me something about values. I'm pleased that they have accepted this contribution.

My parents settled in New Paltz some thirty years ago. My father had the opportunity to plant his family in many different communities, but he deliberately chose New Paltz. It has always been a place that is great for families. The crime rate is half the national average (violent crimes are even more rare), the college provides both energy and cultural opportunities, the location to New York City is convenient, and of course, the natural beauty of the Hudson Valley is something that everyone appreciates.

But aside from these conveniences, what makes New Paltz a special community to raise children? When I return to New Paltz for visits, I've started noticing the little things that you forget about when you live there. For example, when you park your car and run into a store, most of you don't lock your car doors. That's a reflection of the trust that you have in each other as a community. Or when I visit local businesses to pick up prescriptions and food for my parents, people always ask how they are. People in New Paltz genuinely care about each other. In a way, New Paltz is an extended family, complete with your eccentric relatives and down-to-earth friends. If you're from other parts of the country, it's rare to find people who trust each other and care for each other they way they do in New Paltz.

But perhaps most importantly, your children are watching. They learn to have trust in each other, to care for one another, and that we're better off as a community than as individuals. Little lessons every day provide them with the values you hope all children will obtain. More examples include the creation of a community park for children on what used to be the Campus School field, the walking paths on what used to be the railroad tracks, or the institution of pedestrian cross-walks on Main Street. You're making investments in the community, your children are watching, and they're learning some values in the process.

Today I live in Los Angeles. My work has brought me here. I'm a father of one (soon to be two), and I'm worried about the values this community will teach them. We always lock our car doors. We're worried about gangs influencing our children at young ages. My three year old son knows that there are "bad guys" in the world, and sometimes has nightmares about them coming into our home. At the tender age of three, the community here has taught him to be afraid, rather than to trust. I wish there was some way I could recapture what I learned in New Paltz and give it to him.

Jefferson Huang
Claremont, California
Huangs3@aol.com