The rest of this semester will be dedicated to a class project that, in short, will highlight to positive aspects of Terre Haute, Indiana. It seems on the surface this project is meant to not only fine tune our collective writing skills for a digital age, but it’s already taken on a different meaning for me.
I moved to Terre Haute in the Spring of 2016 since at that time it wasn’t possible for men to live on campus at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. The lovely receptionist at Complete Landlord Solutions led my mother and I to believe that a property was available for me to live in and was a bit of a secret within the small company. In the four months that I lived there I watched the house next door burn down (the very first night I lived there), had my tires slashed because my car was mistaken for one next door and there was an active drug turf war (a situation in which the neighbors aggressively encouraged me not to involve the police but I didn’t have the heart or guts to tell them I already did), and spent most of my nights hearing the moaning and rattling of my neighbor’s bedroom (the same neighbor who blasted speed metal through the night because he was afraid of the dark). So I believe in reasonably allowed to have a more negative than positive review of Terre Haute given my initial experience with the city.
I understand that every city, even my beloved Indy, has rough areas, but even now I see Terre Haute full of more concern than celebration. The number of confederate flags (not capitalized on purpose) that I pass just leaving West Terre Haute is concerning, especially for a state that was never part of the confederacy. My opinion of Terre Haute after living in town was that this was a city past it’s prime and what was once a vibrant, bustling hub has now been replaced by meth and racism. I get it, that’s not a fair assessment but it’s one that most people outside the city and even some within the city hold. So if Terre Haute has the reputation of not only a place with nothing going on, but a dangerous meth factory, is there any redeeming quality?
Our class hosted an “I Love Terre Haute” panel of Candace Minster (White Violet Garden Manager), Richard Payonk (Executive Director of The Wabash Valley United Way), David Haynes (President of the Chamber of Commerce), and Dr. Shikha Bhattacharyya (Creator of ReTHink). All of these people provided different perspectives on what they see in Terre Haute worth celebrating. Where Dr. Bhattacharyya and Ms. Minster see recycling efforts as a step toward sustainability, Mr. Payonk and Mr. Haynes see the good that businesses are doing to help revitalize the community. Awareness and education seem to be the first step in showing outsiders and even locals that Terre Haute has more to offer. As Dr. Bhattacharyya said in an e-mail correspondence:
“We are really working hard towards getting a green rating system started for local businesses. I’m also working on a speaker series program to educate employees in bigger corporations.”
I’m always eager to work on my writing because i’m a realist; it’s good but not great. The problem is that writing can always improve but impressions begin to solidify themselves quickly and my impression of Terre Haute is not ripe for change. That’s why this website, and my specific search to find activities for college students, is more critical to changing my perception of Terre Haute than it is to improving my skills as a writer. There’s nothing worse than someone who holds an opinion without all the facts and refuses to change even when they do. If i’m going to live here for the next couple of years, I refuse to be that person.
Photo Credit: Steve Shook