I find it fascinating that we do not realize all the great qualities about someone, something, or somewhere until we are asked to do so. I have lived in Forest Park all my life and for the first time in 20 years I sat down and reflected on what growing up in this town has done for me.

 I have so many memories of being younger and attending the public schools with the same group of friends that I have had since pre-K. I remember being able to participate in school activities and being able to roam around after school without feeling unsafe or without having my parents worry. 

The summers in Forest Park were the best because my friends and I could always hang out at the pool or see what events the Park District was holding. We would spend all day riding our bikes around and then would hope to find a couple of bucks to go grab ice cream at the Brown Cow or get sour cherries from Ferrara Pan. My friends and I took advantage of the easy access to downtown, especially in the summer when we could explore downtown and hit the beach. 

I have saved so much money by being able to hop on the train and take transfers to get to wherever I needed to be. Also, like many others, I have worked in Forest Park at the Park District, Ed’s Way, and on Madison Street. These Forest Park jobs have helped me to get to know my fellow community members and make connections that open new doors for me left and right as well as build new relationships. 

I can hardly walk out my door without bumping into someone I know who wants to chit chat, and it is one of the little things that we do not appreciate because we take it for granted. I mean, how many other communities have relationships like that? I will be 21 very soon and will be able to appreciate the bars and food on Madison Street and then walk the two blocks home to my house. What more could a 21 year old ask for? 

From the outside looking in, it may not seem like I am really describing how Forest Park has helped shape me, but it has. From having the same group of friends and appreciating that, to the easy access downtown, the jobs that are offered to young people like me, to the relationships and connections, and the stuff that goes on at the Park District and on Madison Street how could that not help shape me? 

Something I don’t like about Forest Park? The overnight parking ban – my out-of-town friends hate it.

Jessica Jordan is junior at Lewis University majoring in English Literature and Language with a minor in Spanish. She’s a typical bookworm aspiring to be many things, preferably, a literary agent.