On Oct. 19, State Senator Anna Caballero presented a $5 million check to the City of Gonzales for the construction of a Teen Innovation Center, which will be part of the greater Community Center Complex. Construction is set to start at the end of next year and the center is slated to open in late 2024. Voices Young Correspondent Angela Rodríguez has been part of the process for several years and filed this report.
By Angela Rodríguez
Gonzales is rural heaven. I have loved my town all my life, with every inch of my being. I love the roaring wind that coaxes leaves from trees and makes hair fly, the mountains that loom over us so comfortingly, the sun that dips into the mountainside and paints our town a beautiful orange.
I love the crack in every sidewalk, the trees beside every crack on the sidewalks, the soft ray of our well-worn roads, the way our land dips into lows and rises to highs. I love the little kids who play in the parks and beg you to join them, the ladies who water their gardens and make conversation with every person who passes by, the viejitos that walk around in the evenings, always offering a polite “buenas tardes.” To me, there is no better place on earth.
However, Gonzales is not without its faults.
We are a small town, and it has its blessings and disadvantages.
I first joined the Gonzales Youth Council in 2018, with the intention to create more resources for my peers. Through my years at the Gonzales School District, I noticed a disparity between the resources available here and those available in Salinas or Soledad. We don’t have as many electives, AP courses, sports, etc. We don’t have a space for students to work on their projects. To this day, the Gonzales Mock Trial team has resorted to Zoom meetings due to a lack of proper meeting space.
As an incoming freshman at Gonzales High, fresh out of middle school, I was determined to contribute to change. The Youth Council offered an opportunity to do just that: the Teen Innovation Center. I remember sitting in our very first meeting and hearing those words for the first time.
“It’ll be a space for Gonzales kids to explore paths beyond what we’re shown in our small town,” the youth commissioners of that time said.
I was floored. We were talking about a safe space where students could finally pursue their passions. Free internet for students who don’t have that luxury at home. A quiet space to focus and study. Space to create and build. Simple, but extremely important things that we could provide. There would no longer be long hours spent struggling to build MESA projects on small Starbucks tables or practicing for presentations at McDonald’s.
However, there were a lot of obstacles. The push for a Teen Innovation Center has been around since the inception of the Youth Council in 2013, and yet it has been hard to make headway. Throughout my four years of service, members of the Gonzales Youth Commission spoke to architects and walked through prospective buildings, studied other Innovation Centers, and still, it was hard to progress further than mere plans. COVID pushed us further back.
And now, state Sen. Anna Caballero has presented the city of Gonzales with $5 million to build the Teen Innovation Center.
All our plans, our dreams, have been realized.
Words fail to describe my gratitude. I can’t deny that I got teary-eyed at the ceremony on Oct. 19 to announce the funding. All I could think about was how my little sister and my nephews would have all the resources I needed throughout my years in Gonzales.
The Teen Innovation Center is, in the simplest terms, a space of opportunity overflowing with possibilities.
Featured image: Members of the Gonzales Youth Council pose with State Senator Anna Caballero on Oct. 19, 2021. Sen. Caballero delivered a $5 million check to be used towards the construction of the Teen Innovation Center.
Voices Young Writer Angela Rodriguez is also a member of the Gonzales Youth Council, and she was present when Anna Caballero presented a $5 million check to the city to build the Teen Innovation Center.
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