Sonoma eccentricities build community

Christina Uzzo will receive the honor of valedictorian for the class of 2014. She competed on the SVHS Mock Trial team and will be attending the University of Chicago this fall, planning to major in English or comparative literature.

This essay was written for Christina’s application for the University of California. “Describe the world you come from – for example, your family, community or school – and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations.”

By Christina Uzzo

My family tree twists and grows in unexpected directions.

Until I was 10, we were four: my mom, my dad, my younger sister and me. Then my parents got a divorce and within a few years my mom remarried. My family also grew instantly and I now have eight grandparents: my mom’s parents and stepparents, my dad’s parents and my stepdad’s parents.

My family is comprised of artists, a religious scholar, one who believes Muslim radicals will come to power, and one who trusts that ancient aliens seeded our planet and may one day return.

The differing views inspire interesting dinner table conversations when we get together. Despite the divorces and remarriages, my family gathers often. My mom’s mom and stepmom were even roommates together on a trip to Thailand.

I am from Sonoma, a small town in Northern California. Similar to my family’s dinner table, Sonoma would not be the same without its distinct characters and quirks. There is the butcher who impersonates Arnold Schwarzenegger over the intercom; the physics teacher who looks suspiciously like the doctor from “Back to the Future” and who taught many of our parents; the jogging woman who does a dance routine on every block; the mayor who sometimes holds meetings without shoes on; and the man clad in spandex who walks his miniature horse all around town.

When my neighbor’s yard art mannequin was stolen, I found out about it the next day in the local newspaper’s police report, and the big news on campus last year was the fishnapping of the beloved library goldfish, Voltaire.

Our upbringing causes us to approach the outside world with zeal and optimism.

Each time I have ventured outside Sonoma, I have seen views that challenge my small town idealism. But rather than return to my comfort zone and blind idealism, the challenges have given me evidence that optimism is valid beyond the hills of Sonoma.

My jumbled and loving family has taught me that unexpected changes are not always changes for the worst. The eccentricities have taught me to be proud of my own quirks and the strong sense of community has instilled a desire to help others. I will be able to turn my positive outlook into action by either becoming a teacher or working for a nonprofit.

In my life, it would be easy to stay idealistic within Sonoma; instead I am excited to continually have my views challenged within the context of the wider world.