The pursuit 
of happiness

The irony of a civic ceremony bestowing a local resident with the Grand Junction Police Department’s Citizen Service Award wasn’t lost on Todd Young.

The recipient, Guadalupe Gomez, isn’t a citizen — at least not in the strictest legal terms. In fact, the 15-year Grand Junction resident had just taken a second job as a hotel worker — to save money to pursue U.S. citizenship — when she saved a 3-year-old girl from drowning in the pool at the Clarion Inn on May 7.

A month later, she was wiping away tears as Grand Junction Police Chief John Camper presented her with a plaque and letter detailing her heroic actions at a meeting of the Law Enforcement Latin Alliance.

The plaque, by the way, was inscribed in Spanish — a nice touch and a nod to inclusivity.

“She just did an incredible job and we’re very proud to have her in our community,” Camper said.

Enter Todd Young, the chief development officer at Bank of the San Juans, who was so moved by Gomez’ story that he called the Hispanic Affairs Project, a local nonprofit helping Gomez with the process of obtaining her citizenship, and asked if he could help financially.

That story, by the Sentinel’s Erin McIntyre, published on July 4, providing a fitting example of “the pursuit of happiness” — one of the “unalienable rights” which the Declaration of Independence says have been given to all human beings by their Creator, and which governments are created to protect.

Gomez, 45, moved to the area for her husband’s job. She picked up the housekeeping job at the hotel to earn extra income on the weekends. She works during the week at Eagle Ridge nursing home.

The timing of Young’s offer was fortuitous. Gomez has a green card expiring soon and was facing the $450 cost of re-applying for that. Young paid $1,115 to cover the cost of pursuing U.S. citizenship.

A grateful Gomez was “kind of taken aback” by an offer from a stranger, a Hispanic Affairs Project staffer told McIntyre. Gomez’s pursuit of happiness — she’s on track to take her oath as a citizen in six months to a year — got a big boost from an American citizen who considers diversity a strength.

Young said those of us born in this country can sometimes take our citizenship for granted. Seeing Gomez work hard to obtain hers and commit a selfless act in service to her fellow man and her community compelled him to act.

“To help facilitate a gift of citizenship to the greatest country on the planet ... that’s a wonderful gift,” Young said.

It certainly is. We’re fortunate having neighbors like Young who understand how to be active participants in building a better community.


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