There’s something seriously wrong with this picture:
See the ridiculously tall kid surrounded by a bunch of silhouettes? That’s me, standing on a residential cul de sac in Escondido, on the day of an 8th grade "graduation" party organized by a group of parents. Those silhouettes around me are some of my closest friends that I grew up with.
Now you may be wondering why all my friends look like ghosts. The answer is simple and startling: Every single one of them grew up here in Escondido and have since moved away as adults, most likely never to return.
Where have they gone? Well, most of them now live elsewhere in San Diego County. Some have gone elsewhere in California. A few even went out of state. In fact, I was a ghost myself for about five years during my twenties when I lived elsewhere.
The thing that saddens me about this picture isn’t the fact that I’m not located as physically close to my childhood friends anymore. Even though we’re spread all over the map, most of us are still in regular contact, so it feels like we’re as close as ever.
No, what saddens me about this picture is the loss it represents for our community. These friends are some of the best and smartest people I know. Some have started businesses, all have graduated from college, and some have advanced degrees. The majority of them work in science or technology-related jobs — the very kinds of jobs and professionals we’ve been hearing for years that Escondido is trying to attract. I can’t help but think how much better Escondido would be if they, and more like them, lived here today as adults.
But the picture literally gets worse…
For all the silhouettes shown above, I personally know of at least 10 to 20 additional Escondido natives I graduated high school with who no longer live in Escondido and have either no desire or no ability to come back.
Furthermore, in my adult life, I’ve met a number of other young professionals in the San Diego area who did not grow up in Escondido but also have no desire or ability to relocate here. Other young outsiders did move to Escondido, but they later felt the need to move out and relocate elsewhere in San Diego County.
The departure of all this young talent and energy is a condition I call the Escondido Youth Exodus. With high school graduations happening all around Escondido this month, I can’t help but wonder — how many of these graduates will also depart Escondido in the near future, likely never to return? Indeed, the timing seems perfect for someone to sound the alarm and expose this massive yet rarely-discussed problem that has serious implications for the health and vitality of our community.
Now let me be clear: My goal isn’t merely to focus on something negative. Rather, as is always the case with Think Grand, my goal is to share this information in the hope that it can spark some kind of positive change for our community.
As a result, during the month of June, we’re examining the youth exodus via a series of four articles. This first article merely introduces the topic. Subsequent articles will verify the existence of the exodus by examining census data, then uncover why the exodus is happening, and what needs to be done to fix it.
Intrigued? Then I invite you to continue on to article two: Examining & Verifying the Escondido Youth Exodus...
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