Is York City a good place to raise kids? It depends
Last week, personal finance technology company Smart Asset released a study listing the best cities in the nation for children, and York ranked as No. 10. The company used data from the Census, government agencies and other sources to evaluate factors such as child mortality, air quality, graduation rates and child poverty.
Rather than just using data from York City, the company collected data from the entire county, so its evaluation of York reflects the county as a whole, not the city.
But Smart Asset's study prompted a closer look at what it's like to raise children in York City.
As usual, it's all about the money. Those who choose to live in the city and have more mobility and control over where in the city they live and where their children go to school have much different experiences than those who live in the city out of economic necessity.
Choosing the city: Aaron Anderson, CEO and head of school at private Christian school Logos Academy, lives in the Avenues neighborhood of York City. He and his wife have six children, who range in age from 2 to 15. They've lived in the city since 2006.
Anderson said he appreciates the convenience of being able to walk to many places in the city and is glad to see the economic development that has taken place since he moved here from Raleigh, North Carolina.
He likes that there's less pressure here than in larger cities to participate in the "rat race." The area's "blue-collar, fiscally conservative mentality" makes it easier to save money, he said.
Anderson's four school-age children attend Logos Academy. He was careful to say that his and his wife's decision to send their kids to Logos is not a reflection on the city school district's administration and staff, who he said have been "dealt a difficult hand" and are doing the best they can.
Does he worry for his children's safety in a city with a high rate of violent crime?
"In this day and age, any parent needs to exert a certain amount of common sense, wherever they live," he said, saying he believes that often, the view that city streets aren't safe is driven by stereotypes.
Anderson is pleased that his children have been exposed to diversity and have diverse friend groups.
"The best thing we did for our kids was to move into the city," he said.
Trapped in the city: Adriana Espinoza moved to York City after being hospitalized when she was physically assaulted by a former partner, with whom she has a 3-year-old daughter named Stephanie.
She lives with her fiance, Kyle Carter, with whom she has a 10-month-old named Kyleigh.
For Espinoza, whose elder daughter she said inherited her white father's fair skin, diversity is not a perk of living in the city.
"Right now, the best thing is that they're not in school," she said. "They would be going to Ferguson school, one of the safer schools in York, but I still would not let (Stephanie) walk there alone."
Espinoza said she's concerned because her "outspoken" elder daughter would be a racial minority at Ferguson K-8. Stephanie has already been bullied by young children on their way home from school because she is white, her mother said. Espinoza said she's prepared to home-school Stephanie for her first two years of school, until the family can leave the city.
Another concern is the amount of drug use on their block of North Penn Street. Except for a narrow window between 2 and 4 in the morning, she said, the block smells so strongly of marijuana smoke that she gets a headache walking from the car to her front door. There's fighting and drug-dealing in the evening, she said, and their windows rattle from loud music into the night.
Despite all this, Carter said he believes their neighborhood is slowly improving.
"There are people who are willing to look past everything and make it better," he said. "This area has a lot of people who are trying to make it better."
Espinoza said she baby-sits to pay for household items, and Carter, who was recently unemployed for about a year, works at a Domino's Pizza in Harrisburg.
The couple hopes to leave the city within four years. But for now, living in the city is their only option. They only have one car and "rent here is affordable," Espinoza said. "We don't have to choose which bills to pay. At the last place we lived, we were always missing something."
Came back: Chandra Williams grew up in York City and moved back here a few years ago after living in Boston since 1984, she said.
Williams is raising two daughters: 8-month-old Deanori and 5-year-old Kenae.
As she walked home from Ferguson after picking up kindergartner Kenae, Williams said she likes the closeness of her community and convenience of living in the city but said she would move if she could. Though she likes her neighborhood, the threat of violence hangs all around.
"I always carry something on me — a knife, or something — because you never know," she said.
The killing of 27-year-old Ruby Mercado, who was found shot to death near Williams' home on the city's north side about a month ago, really shook her up, she said.
"That incident made me want to pull my daughter out of school and home-school her and everything," she said.
Williams said that when she was living in Boston her own son, 17-year-old Raychand Anghuy, was shot to death in the street.
"(Mercado's death) really hit home," she said.
She lamented the disrespectful attitude of kids in the city, citing a lack of authority figures in the children's lives.
Gun violence frustrates and baffles her.
"Why?" she said. "At least if you fight with your hands, you'll live to see another day."
— Reach Julia Scheib at firstname.lastname@example.org.