Community Columns

Today's Modesto has advantages over today's Los Angeles

Modesto has taken a beating. Last year we were rated the worst city in the nation. This year, Forbes has named us the eighth-worst place to live. Bah, humbug.

OK, I'll admit that when I arrived here more than 17 years ago, I had no intention of staying. I wanted to be back home in Southern California. Now, I can truly say, that while I miss the Los Angeles I grew up in, I sure don't miss the mess that is down there now.

In LA, I wouldn't be able to get from my home to my office in five minutes. I wouldn't have been within an hour and a half of a lovely family ski resort like Dodge Ridge. I certainly couldn't enjoy waking up on a sunny Saturday morning, deciding that it was a fine day for a picnic lunch in Yosemite, and still make it home that night.

More importantly, Modesto offers superb opportunities for our children. My children have enjoyed excellent dance programs, gymnastics and soccer. They have amazing music programs. The list goes on. Even if you could afford all of that in LA, and even if you had a chauffeur, there wouldn't be enough hours in a day to get from point A to point B for that many activities.

I worried about the schools. When my oldest was ready for high school, I trembled. We looked at private school options in Modesto and in other towns. We would have moved if I did not think my children could be offered a quality education. The International Baccalaureate program at Modesto High proved to be the answer. The IB curriculum is the same curriculum that many prestigious private schools offer, for quite a price. I made the right decision. My oldest has felt well-prepared during her freshman year of college, and her competition is fierce.

Now, Modesto has another reason to be proud. Students from many of our high school bands will represent us at the Olympics. The Beijing 2008 Olympic Orchestra will leave July 29 for China. Not only will its tour include a performance at the opening ceremonies, but its members will enjoy a two-week performance run. They represent the best in instrumental music programs of the American high school system.

Opportunities like this are rare. These students will have memories for a lifetime. The Olympics! China!

There are still some significant challenges. It is no secret that the dollar has fallen against the Chinese yuan. At a recent planning meeting, rather than an air of excitement, the room's atmosphere was grim and anxious. The price for participating has climbed, and the fund raising must begin. They have some great suggestions -- like a concert for the community at the Gallo Center for the Arts or the Mancini Bowl.

Modesto, be proud. Let's support our youth and the opportunities this great town has to offer them.

Masson is a Modesto physician and mother of three. E-mail her at