CASSANDRA JENKINS — Blessings of a small town life

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, March 11, 2020

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I like to tell people I’m from a small town, but, to be honest, I grew up in some of the biggest suburbs of Phoenix until the time I was 10. After that, I lived within walking distance under the bright neon lights of the Las Vegas strip.

Most people’s jaws drop when I tell them that I spent middle school running around in my pre-teenage years under the glow of casinos, old motels and street lamps. However, about halfway through my freshman year in high school, my family uprooted to the tiny Texas town of Tarkington, right around the corner from Cleveland.

Even though I begrudged the move hardcore for the first several months, I came to love Texas and see it as my home. Now, when people ask me where I’m from, my first distinctive answer is Cleveland.

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After all, the majority of the hard life lessons I learned revolved around that one-water tower town. My father and mother still live there.

That’s where I met my significant other, where I met some of the best friends I’ve ever had in my life and where I discovered who I was and what I was meant to do.

I graduated from Tarkington High School in 2015, moved to Beaumont to attend Lamar University and went out to explore the world before starting as a professional journalist for The Port Arthur News to report on, well … other small towns.

As an education journalist, I interview a lot of students from elementary to high school, especially seniors. At the end of every “Bright Futures,” I always ask the student about short-term goals. What would they like to accomplish before graduation?

Most of the time, the answers are along the lines of filling their time boosting resumes by doing extracurricular activities, working a part-time job or finishing with good grades. During my last interview, a Nederland High School senior replied with a different answer.

“I want to spend some good times with my peers,” Ethan Rice said. “I want to soak up everything that my home has to offer before I go off into the real world. I think a lot of times people, especially people from small towns, overlook a lot of the real blessings we have living in a small town, like community. You may not find that sense of community in a big city, so I just want to take time to be thankful for that.”

Rice’s answer struck a chord because since I was little, all I can remember is one of my biggest goals in life was to travel the world and never stay in one place too long. Last year I started that journey, visiting Spain, England and Mexico via boat, air and land — all in one year.

I loved it. I still do. I love traveling, but if there is one thing it has taught me, it is to remember the blessings of small-town life and to find ways to make those big, new, scary places feel a little more like home.

So as many seniors get ready to launch into the “real world,” remember to take the time to live in the moment, be thankful for the friends you’ve grown up with your whole life and enjoy the community you live in now before it’s gone.

Cassandra Jenkins is a news reporter at The Port Arthur News. She can be reached at