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My family was the first community I’d ever known, and it will always be the most important in my life. But with each new stage of my life, I’ve also found new communities outside my family that made me feel just as loved. In high school, it was the school paper; in college, the quidditch team.

The school paper introduced me to one of my best friends in high school. We went to the same college and got an apartment together our junior year. The quidditch team became my whole social life during college. We were a team on the pitch, but so much more off the pitch. My teammates were my study buddies, my plus ones, my unofficial roommates; my favorite movie watchers, music lovers, and party-goers.

And I, like so many others, was devastated when the COVID-19 pandemic took that all away from me. Eight months into my junior year of college, I packed up my apartment, said goodbye to all my friends, and moved back home. There, I finished out the remainder of my junior year and the entirety of my senior year virtually, completely isolated from any community — with the exception of my family, of course.

As much as I love my family, being stuck at home took a toll on my mental health. I missed my commute to classes and late nights in the library; I missed my independence; most of all, I missed my friends. We tried to stay in touch, but how could seeing each other once a month on Zoom possibly compare to seeing each other in class, at practice, and around campus every day?

When I found Amate House and learned how the program is grounded in community, I was apprehensive. Faced with the prospect of living with eight total strangers, who wouldn’t be? It was my mom who reminded me of my need for community. “It’ll be good for you to be around people your own age again,” she said.

So once again, I packed up my bags and moved. But this time instead of feeling sorrow at leaving my community, I was filled with excitement at discovering a whole new one — discovering something that had been lacking in my life for nearly two years. And what a discovery it’s been.

Our little community is made up of nine people (okay, maybe not so little). Between the nine of us, we come from six different states and work at seven different nonprofit sites around the city. In the three short months we’ve lived together, we’ve had our ups and downs, but we’ve made our house a place I’m happy to call home.

Of course, there are challenges to living in community. Vulnerability was a big one for us. We’re a group that relies a lot on humor to mask pain or discomfort. It took a conscious effort on all of our parts to recognize that and allow ourselves to open up and be vulnerable around each other.

Although it’s still challenging, we’ve gotten better at being vulnerable, and it’s brought us all closer together. The thing I love most about this community is how much they all make me laugh. And if you know me, you know how much I love to laugh.

It’s hard to compare this community to others I’ve been part of in the past, but there is one thing that makes this community stand out in my experience. In the past, it’s taken me months — sometimes years — to open up to people, but not here. I call myself an introvert, but there was no sign of that nature here. Right from the very beginning, I felt comfortable being loud and full of laughter; I felt comfortable being myself. I don’t know what it was that made me stray from my usual pattern the way I did with this community, but I take it as a sign that I am where I’m meant to be.

The 2021-2022 Mckinley Park House fellows during their orientation picture day.

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