"It really was fantastic."
"I worked at AM General for 30 plus years. I don't do much of anything anymore other than go to the gym and take care of my grand kids. That's about it. I've always lived on the Southeast side. The connection in this part of the neighborhood used to be really good, but it was nothing compared to what it was when I was younger... I remember, every year, there was this guy that would come down to an empty lot in our neighborhood and dig a pit. He would bring a hog, and he would roast that hog. He was there the whole day and night roasting that hog. Now I'm not sure if people in the neighborhood would pay him to come down and do that, but everyone would join him and bring food, and oh my... It was such a fun time eatin' that hog. I don't really think about those times anymore, it really was fantastic. Things like that just don't happen around here nowadays."
"Life is a lifetime journey of learning"
"My favorite thing about the neighborhood is probably my church. It’s right in the neighborhood and I love my pastor. And I love his vision for the neighborhood. There’s a lot of activity going on now in the neighborhood, which is exciting to be a part of, to see the turnaround of the neighborhood which really hasn’t seen any growth or revitalization probably since the Studebaker plant closed down, so it’s just fun to be in on the ground floor of seeing everything turn around. I know that so many people get complacent in what they do, they never strive for better, greater, so I want the community to know there are a lot of opportunities to have a better standard of living. I’ve been blessed to buy a really big, beautiful house in this neighborhood, and I just want to encourage the community to not give up on life and always be looking to learn, because you never know what position it’ll put you in. There’s a lifelong learning institute that’s being designed right now--it’s going to be powerful in the community and I would just urge people to take advantage of that when it comes into play. I mean, life is a lifetime journey of learning, so stay on that journey."
"When I hear that, it lets me know that I'm on the right track."
"I am a teacher. I've been here since I was born. I've been teaching for 10 years at a number of different schools, and for now 3 different school corporations, but that's a complicated story. I kinda do nerd stuff, y'know, like D&D and Magic: The Gathering, and I try to share those interests with my students to give them an outlet so that they have another way to connect with the school.
I stay here in South Bend because I can't really afford to leave. Y'know, there are times when I really love this place, the East Race is amazing. But, there's also a lot that's really heartbreaking, and it's difficult to keep seeing the same problems happen over and over... I've got 27 dead students, and I've only been teaching for 10 years. That's almost 3 students a year that shoot each other to death. Um, I don't know man... It kills me. But I keep going. When I was younger, I used to spend a lot of time going and listening to live music on Friday nights, and that was really formative, it gave me a better understanding of human beings and sorta made me give a sh** about other people. But there's not a whole lot do around South Bend as a teenager, and that's why I understand these kids that end up going out and getting involved in stuff that's way over their head, and they end up dead, or kids that end up so bored that they do drugs. Y'know, I get it.
When I was 11, I got started on fantasy gaming, I guess, like, the schools do a great job on reaching out to students who are gonna be athletes or academically involved, but there are some kids who are just kinda left behind. And some of those kids are going to do nerdy stuff, and if they are, cool, let's get them here, let's bring them in, let's have them be in a nerdy after-school club so they can participate and keep them safe for a couple more hours a week. It's one more way to keep them connected to the school, so they don't drop out. And really, connections to the building is the most important aspect of whether or not a student is going to drop out, or fail, or even succeed. When schools find more ways to open up to kids, those kids will get more involved with the school and give a sh** about their grades and their lives in general, and hopefully it's a strong enough hook to keep them in so they graduate. It works for some kids, and I've had a couple tell me, 'If it wasn't for this, I would've dropped out of school a long time ago.' and when I hear that, it lets me know that I'm on the right track."
"Take control of your life"
"You’re talking to history: I am the first Latino in the South Bend Fire Department. I’m going to be honest with you, I’ve had a heck of a life, a heck of a ride, and the reason I say that is I went from poverty, working 10 hours a day, 5 ½ days a week in the fields, to this position as fire chief, which I love because I have authority but at the same time responsibility comes with that authority. It’s a challenge. I am chief Monday through Friday, and on Saturdays I lose the ‘i’ and I become a chef! For the last 22 years, I’ve always worked two jobs. My greatest challenge is trying to find time for myself, just so I can kick back and relax-- I haven’t had a vacation in 21 years since I opened the restaurant. My personal time is very important because I have very little of it. My advice is to be happy, stay healthy, and manage yourselves. Take control of your life."
"I love this community"
“I’ve always loved South Bend. I love living here. I’m going to college here. I don’t regret not going somewhere else. When I was making college choices, I was visiting a university. I was in Rhode Island visiting Brown for admitted student day talking to people about what’s so special about Providence, what’s so special about the college. I was deciding between Brown and Notre Dame and what made me decide to stay at Notre Dame and stay in South Bend was I was talking to a community leader about how he gets involved with the neighborhoods, how he gets involved in the city and community and something just didn’t feel right. He asked me “Why do you want to get involved in the community of Providence?” and it just hit me that I don’t want to get involved in your community. I want to stay in South Bend. I want to improve that community because that’s the one I’m passionate about and that’s the one I love. I love the people here I love the history here. I love the community, the culture. It was at that moment when it hit me that I want to live in South Bend and stay here. That’s the main factor that drove my decision to stay here for college and stay here for the next four years, because I love this community so much.”
"Plan your life loosely"
"My daily struggle is that I have had a life beyond my expectations. I've had four careers, all great, by the way. People have always come up to me and say, 'Say, I have a job [for you], why don't you come over?' People have done that to me all my life. One of them ended up being city council, one of them running a treatment center, the director of community-based corrections...I teach now, and that happened the same way. So every day I wake up, and I pinch myself. I just can't believe the life I've had. And I'm only 71, so I have another one coming, I just don't know where it is! So I wake up every morning amazed at the life I've had because it was unplanned in a very structured kind of way. So I always tell young people, plan your life loosely to take advantage of unexpected opportunities. That's what I've always done. Plan your life, but plan it loosely."
"I would like for no more histories to be lost"
“I think that one of the things that we’ve lost is our history of neighborhoods. It’s hard to build a city’s history, or a state’s history, or a country’s history without history from the people. One of the things that I really wished had happened years ago was for someone to do an oral history of this neighborhood, because just 5 or 10 years ago there were people who had lived here all their lives, and they were in their 80’s. What a rich heritage that would be, that they had seen this neighborhood from basically when it began and when it moved through difficult times. It’s too bad that those kinds of histories are lost. So I would like for no more histories to be lost”
"They love the park"
“I work at St. Margret’s Day Care Ministry over on Kaley Street. We aren’t from this neighborhood; it was such a nice day we decided to bring the kids over to the park. They love the park.”
"It gives the neighborhood a small town feel"
“We’ve lived in this house for 19 years. We have great neighbors. Because we live right next to Riley, we get front row seats to the Riley High School Homecoming Parade every year too. It’s really cool because it goes right in front of the house and none of the other high schools do it. It gives the neighborhood a small town feel. We also used to do this neighborhood Christmas Candle Walk. They don’t do it so much anymore, but people would put candles in their windows or on their porches, there would be carolers, and we would just walk around the neighborhood. It was really nice, we always loved doing that, but again people don’t do it anymore. Oh! Here’s something funny about this area. If you try to do any yard work you'll be constantly hitting bricks! This area used to be where Studebaker would dump all of their construction waste. All of the bricks that line our front yard we found when we were trying to plant trees in the back.”
"They call me the Cat Man"
“I’ve lived in a big white house over on Bendix for about 7 years now. They call me the Cat Man. When I moved in, there were all these cats hanging around the house and I just started taking care of them. They brought their friends over and now I have 40 cats. They all live outside; if they didn’t I wouldn’t have any furniture left, no nothin’. I built a Cataminium for them, and a Catateria next to the Cataminium. I take care of them.”