By Sara Orvis
Diverse. This is not a word I would us to describe my hometown of Clayton NY. Quaint, yes. Community, yes. Beautiful, yes. But it is not diverse–and it’s the diversity we have seen that has shocked me most during our trip through Massachusetts. This week my team, Mass Action, and I were in the South Hadley/Holyoke area of Massachusetts. On our ride in we stopped 5 miles from South Hadley and 10 miles from
downtown Holyoke for some apples and granola bars. We stopped in the lawn of a huge estate with manicured lawns and nice cars in the parking lot. We had been warned about Holyoke but after seeing this area only 10 miles away we thought maybe everyone was just being overly cautious; it didn’t look bad at all. As April said, “Crime doesn’t look like this.” We continued our journey and stopped in a South Hadley, a town much like my own; quaint, beautiful, community-oriented.
At only 5 miles away from Holyoke we couldn’t see how Holyoke could be this big city with the unfortunate crimes that we had heard so much about. The next day we got on our bikes to make the short 5 mile ride in to Holyoke for the Farmer’s Market downtown. We rode down College Street with Mount Holyoke College on one side and lovely large houses on the other. Smiles crossed our faces as we rode, but soon the area we were riding in changed. We got down to Bridge Street, leading us to the bridge over the Connecticut River to the spot where South Hadley, a quaint, beautiful community, ended and Holyoke, a diverse city, began.
In Holyoke we saw and heard all that a big city has, including the sprawling asphalt and crowded streets. The people were different, too; there was diversity, language and culture. Just as the beauty of these people amazed me, so did the economic
disparity that faces the city. I was left wondering, how can so much change in just 5 or 10 miles? I knew I must have missed the dividing line that separates the quaint town of South Hadley and the diverse city of Holyoke.. it couldn’t just be those two small signs: “Entering Holyoke”, “Entering South Hadley” that makes this separation so visible. Could it?