A hidden gem on the southwest side of Chicago, Ashburn offers residents a little taste of everything that makes a neighborhood special. One of my earliest memories was on my first day of 3rd Grade. The school day came and went but after school I had told my mother I’d walk home alone -- after all I lived only a few blocks away. Being confident but completely unfamiliar with the neighborhood, I, of course, got lost. I was terrified.

Fortunately, a nice man was outside of his house on Kildare Avenue, who looked as though he was cleaning his garage. I approached him and asked in as mature and polite of a voice as I had at ten years old. “Excuse me sir, where’s Tripp Street?” The man cordially let me know that it was only a block away. I felt so relieved and followed his instructions and was back home in a couple of minutes. This kind man’s gesture and amicable personality made me realize that I was in a great neighborhood and set the tone for the rest of my time in Ashburn.

Durkin Park Elementary School

I went to a total of three elementary schools. After a couple of volatile years, I finally arrived at Durkin Park Elementary and I’m happy to say that I finally found a home. I spent six years here before graduating and throughout my time there I was treated like family. I was given an incredible education that, I’m glad to say, prepared me for high school and beyond.

I truly felt like family here and, just like any healthy family, they never forgot me. One warm summer day I went back to attend the school’s annual open house. As I entered the room, Principal Redmond introduced me impromptu to the crowd, “…and there is Omar. He recently graduated and represented Durkin Park at last year’s City Science Fair”. Everyone in the room clapped as I walked into the auditorium and it was at that moment that I knew that I belonged.

Durkin Park

Adjacent to the school was the actual park, Durkin Park, which has everything a child needs. Most of my childhood was spent here. It saddens me to say that over the years, fewer students visit the park due to the rise in social media and less active leisurely activities like watching Netflix. This park holds warm memories for me: me and my friends playing soccer, having water balloon battles, enjoying our annual school picnic. Every time I’m in the neighborhood, I enjoy walking around and reminiscing about the good ol’ days.

Waldo Cooney’s

Located just a few blocks from Durkin Park, Waldo Cooney’s is your perfect neighborhood pizzeria. They offer thick slices of pizza at cheap prices, both things a preteen loves when he’s on a $5/week allowance. One of my fondest memories here was when my group of friends encouraged someone to ask for a refill on his slice of pizza (which is, by the way, hilarious when you’re a kid). I’m not quite sure how we convinced him but we couldn’t hold our laughter in and had to storm out of the pizzeria. In case you were curious, the pizzeria politely declined the request.

My neighborhood is what made me who I am today. If I could go back in time and choose to live anywhere in the world growing up, I would still choose Ashburn in Chicago. It will always be my home.