What Does Community Mean to You?

Last updated: March 22, 2023, at 4:58 a.m. PT

Originally published: September 23, 2020, at 9:40 a.m. PT


Welcoming Week celebrates the growing movement of communities that fully embrace new Americans and their contributions to the social fabric of our country. As part of the Y’s Virtual Welcoming Week celebration this year, we asked for creative and forward-thinking teens to participate in our first-ever Teen Blog Competition. Our winning submission came from Jasmine Herri, a 17-year-old junior at the International Community School in Kirkland, Washington. Jasmine's submission on the topic, "What does community mean to you?" is below. 

Ever-Changing Roles in Flourishing Communities

What does community mean to you? This is a tough question to answer as each person will give their own response, each of them equally valid. Personally, when I see this inquiry, it brings a very specific memory to mind. I recall sitting at my shiny white desk completing my vocabulary worksheet for school. When I got to the bottom of the document, I stumbled across a word that I had heard only several times before—community. I remember filling in the definition: a community is a group of people who live in the same general area. However, looking back on that day, I realize that despite getting full marks on that assignment, my definition was entirely incorrect. I now understand that a community isn’t limited to those who live in the same neighborhood; it can also include people who support each other’s interests or have something in common. Upon making this newfound discovery, I subsequently realized that I belong to several communities myself— such as my family, my cul-de-sac, my school, and my job at the YMCA—and each one contributes to who I am today and occupies a special place in my heart. 

The very first community I became a part of was my family. When I came into this world, I assumed the role of the youngest, or as my dad likes to call me, “his favorite youngest daughter.” In this position, I learned how to be an assistant of sorts; I helped my mom around the house, I assisted my father when he grilled in the backyard, and I aided my big sister when she baked banana bread. Doing these things helped me learn how to be a follower, someone who seeks to support others in their endeavors. However, although this was the first community I was a part of, it was far from the last. 

The next community I found myself in was my cul-de-sac. This is where I first met other children my age. My neighbors and I played in a fort in the woods, we went to the playground, and we happily ate popsicles in my backyard. Spending time with my neighbors taught me how to be a friend, someone people can depend on and bond with. Of course, I couldn’t play all day forever. As I grew older, it was time for me to go to school, where I found a whole new community to be a part of. 

Prior to attending educational facilities, the only adults I had interacted with were my parents and the occasional aunt or uncle. At school, however, I established a relationship with my teacher, a helpful adult who taught me how to read, write, and do math. Of course, those weren’t the only skills that I learned; I discovered how to be a student, someone who respectfully listens to their teacher and participates in group settings. Fast forward about 10 years, and it was time for me to get a job. 

My first employment was at my local YMCA as a swim instructor and assistant lifeguard. At first, I was nervous to be an instructor as I had never professionally taught someone something before. However, these doubts quickly faded as I successfully trained my first class of preschoolers how to float. It was at this job, that I learned how to be a teacher, someone who strives to educate others and help them grow as individuals. 

Each of these communities taught me something vital to how I live my life, and each lesson is interconnected. To be a loyal friend I have to be a good follower. To be an impactful teacher I have to be a respectful student. To be a valuable member of my community I have to fulfill the role I am given. With each new position I fulfill in my communities, I expand my capabilities and establish new connections with others. Throughout my life, my communities have shaped who I am today.

Thus, that leads me back to the question: what does community mean to you? Or rather, what do your communities mean to you? The answer?  To me, they mean everything, and I can’t wait to see what else I become a part of in the future. 

Thus, that leads me back to the question: what does community mean to you? Or rather, what do your communities mean to you? The answer?  To me, they mean everything, and I can’t wait to see what else I become a part of in the future.