Last Tuesday, MYTHIRDPLACE teens and families had the incredible opportunity to spend some time with Mayor Rocha and his wife Linda for the second year in a row. Last year Mayor Rocha came and spoke in a more formal setting on a stage, and though it was great, it lacked a bit of a personal touch. This year we decided to do something more casual and intimate. Teens, family members, staff, and mentors crammed together on couches and chairs around a bonfire in the chilly night air under the stars. And Mayor Rocha told us about his life, passions, and desire for the city and its youth, as we all enjoyed some delicious s’mores and hot chocolate.
Because I wasn’t able to attend MYTHIRDPLACE’s ‘Evening With the Mayor’ last year, I was really excited to hear Mayor Rocha and Linda’s story from their own perspective for the first time that night As expected, I was left inspired and thankful that our teens have a mayor that they can relate to and look up to. Many of our teens, now, can relate to Mayor Rocha’s experiences growing up here in Azusa. As a child he grew up in a working class family, and was treated differently and discriminated against because of the color of his skin. As young adults, Mayor Joe and Linda faced other sets of problems being that they were an interracial couple. But through these and other difficulties, Mayor Rocha and Linda made their life decisions with an aim to love and serve God and their community, and now have the opportunity to do that on a larger scale.
Mayor Rocha and Linda finished their stories by encouraging our teens to make a difference in their communities and take advantage of the opportunities they have to get involved. They made a point to remind the teens that they have a rare opportunity to be at MYTHIRDPLACE and have people who are willing to walk through life with them, and a chance to really get involved in making Azusa better. Then they did something crazy–they offered their personal contact info to anyone who wanted it, with a promise that their home would be open to anyone who wanted to come and talk. Dang. I don’t know many people in general, let alone people in public office, who would be willing to do that. After we’d closed out the time of discussion, several of our teens took the first step of taking them up on the offer, and went up to him and got his business card.
As we wound down from the night, chatting, drinking some more hot chocolate, and cleaning up, I took a moment and thought, “Is this real life? Did I really just spend my regular Tuesday night chillin’ with some knucklehead teenagers, their families, fellow mentors, and…the mayor of my city?” And I really did. That’s crazy! How many people are blessed with a mayor that loves and serves the youth of his city so much that he would spend a night with us and seriously give out his personal phone number? I’m still in awe.
As I reflect on that night, and on Mayor Rocha’s story, I am encouraged that our teens have Mayor Rocha to look to as an example of a man who works hard to love and serve God and his community. I am even more excited and honored to be able to work for an organization like MYTHIRDPLACE where youth are able to have opportunities like this to meet and engage their mayor.
We were, and are still, incredibly honored to have had Mayor Joe and Linda Rocha with us. We’re blown away by the fact that the leader of our city is so willing to sit down with our teens and families and get to know them and be known by them. We are confident that their story has made an impact in the lives of our teens, and are looking forward to more opportunities for our teens to become change agents in our city, alongside Mayor Rocha, to make a difference in the lives of those around us.