Eagle Rock offers hidden gems, untapped resources

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Home to Occidental College, Eagle Rock is a neighborhood on the rise. The real-estate brokerage firm Redfin recently named Eagle-Rock the second “hottest” neighborhood in the U.S., a ranking that has given the community national recognition. Eagle Rock’s burgeoning presence in Los Angeles is providing Occidental students with more resources to which they can apply their liberal arts education.

As students, it is imperative that we take advantage of these resources as they are unique to our school and will ultimately enrich our formative college years.

Eagle Rock, with its Bohemian ambience, is where hipsters go to grow up: twinkle lights illuminate the boutiques on Colorado Boulevard and the scents of various cuisines from Japanese to Peruvian waft through the air. Eagle Rock is home to the Eagle Rock Music Festival, a widely recognized street fair in Los Angeles that celebrates the surrounding community and promotes local business.

The student-run start up Student IDeals has taken advantage of the community to offer discounts to students at some of these local restaurants and stores. Art history and Visual Arts major Talon Gonzalez (senior), who handles merchant relations for Student IDeals, has noticed the growth of businesses within Eagle Rock and Highland Park and their association to Occidental students directly.

“There’s a lot of new businesses popping up that are catering to a younger audience,” Gonzalez said, mentioning how restaurants like Cacao Mexicatessan and Big Mama & Big Papa’s Pizzeria are expanding their restaurants to include bars.

The Hermosillo, a bar popular among Occidental upperclassman, is also expanding to include a brewery. The main boulevards in Eagle Rock are filled with a diverse array of restaurants and bars for students to try, 40 of which offer Occidental students a special discount. Many students do frequent these locally-run restaurants, cultivating relationships with hip, small businesses in the community.

In a CNN Opinions article on the importance of the liberal arts, Michael Roth, president of Wesleyan University, said that attending a liberal arts institution presents the chance to work, make friends and participate in a community based on educated interests rather than just social and ethnic origins. Situated in a growing neighborhood in the second-most populous city in the U.S., Occidental students need to do just that. We hail from all over the world and should engage with the equally diverse citizens of Eagle Rock, who bolster Occidental’s interdisciplinary and multicultural academic concentrations. More than ever, it is important that Occidental students collaborate with these local businesses through both professional and academic outlets, and it is becoming easier to do so.

Redfin reported that the trend in 2014 neighborhood popularity is based on a short commute at an affordable price. Eagle Rock connects to the Interstates 2 and 134 as well as the Gold line, making it easy for Occidental students, many of whom rent houses near campus, to commute to different areas of L.A. The Take Back the Boulevard initiative in Eagle Rock recently installed bike lines and new crosswalks on Colorado Boulevard, making it easier for car-less Occidental students to easily get around the neighborhood.

Last summer, Occidental’s Career Development Center launched InternL.A., an internship program that offers more than 30 opportunities around the city to Occidental students. In an affordable neighborhood with convenient routes to other areas of L.A., Occidental’s location in Eagle Rock makes InternL.A. a possible and unique opportunity for students.

Multiple departments at Occidental also have initiatives that promote student involvement within the burgeoning Eagle Rock community. Supported by a Keck Grant, students in Professor Jan Lin’s Los Angeles Field Research Course (SOC 360) have the opportunity to interview individuals who have made an impact in our community. Interviews have featured Daniel Ruiz, a muralist whose work is featured in Highland Park, Camilo Gonzalez, owner of Camilo’s California Bistro on Colorado Boulevard and Baba Austin, the owner and tattooist at Vintage Tattoo Art Parlor on York Boulevard. These local personalities are as diverse as the Occidental community, and their varied backgrounds expose us to a multitude of professional possibilities after college.

Occidental’s mission is “to provide a gifted and diverse group of students with a total educational experience of the highest quality — one that prepares them for leadership in an increasingly complex, interdependent and pluralistic world.” Eagle Rock is a microcosm of the pluralistic world in which we live. The variety of local businesses, organizations and residents allow us to apply our culturally-oriented education on a small scale.

Art history majors can go to Avenue 50 Studio, a space grounded in Latina Chicana culture and engage with native artists. Economics majors can talk business strategy with the owners of Spitz, Occidental alumni who have now opened six different locations. Avid readers can check out Read Books, a family-run bookstore that boasts a treasure trove collection. And the list goes on.

Eagle Rock is a rapidly growing and socially present community, a small gem in the vastness of Los Angeles. As Occidental students and liberal art thinkers, we can be catalysts to this growth by engaging with our ever-changing, complex and diverse community. With Eagle Rock as our home and Los Angeles as our back yard, we are obligated to take advantage of the multitude of resources available to us.