Making the Desert Bloom

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jun 21 2012

The Differences of Las Vegas Induction

For most regions in TFA, induction seems to be a pretty standard affair. You stay at a local university where you learn a bunch about TFA, and you get to interact a bit with the local community. In essence, that is what induction in the Las Vegas Valley is like, but the differences are worth explaining.

TFA in Vegas is in the process of moving downtown. They are physically moving their office from the suburbs (near UNLV) to downtown. The reason for this move is because of the 1.5 million dollar investment that Zappos has made in TFA through the Downtown Project. The goal of the Downtown Project is to create a living, urban community in the traditionally blighted area of downtown Las Vegas. Zappos is investing 350 million dollars in this project, and it is already beginning to show results with new bars and restaurants opening up in the area.

As part of this move downtown, we have gotten some special perks. First, we are staying at the newly renovated Plaza Hotel on the edge of Fremont Street instead of UNLV dorms. Besides the lack of free wifi, the Plaza has been a great place for induction. Secondly, the Downtown Project has given us tours of the area. They were pretty standard tours with one exception. We got to go into the penthouse apartment of Tony Hsieh, who is the CEO of Zappos. As you can see through these photos, his apartment is pretty crazy (and you can’t even see the jungle room here). It was surreal to see Tony just working on his laptop in the kitchen while wearing a t-shirt and shorts. He may be one of the richest men in America, but he is incredibly down to earth.

Third, Zappos threw us a food truck party this evening in the newly redeveloped area of downtown. We were able to get free food and cheap drinks from a couple food trucks and meet members of the local community. They also brought in a DJ to turn the block into a cool, party atmosphere. Ideally, the Downtown Project wants all of us 2012 corps members to live downtown. While it is a cool, emerging neighborhood, there are some big problems for me and most other corps members.

First, there is no grocery store within walking distance. A real community needs multiple grocery stores at different price points. Second, most of the apartments available to corps members are studios, and most people want housemates for emotional and economical reasons. Despite generous subsidies offered by Zappos, the prices are still more expensive than living out in the relatively swanky suburbs of Summerlin and Henderson. Third, while it would be nice to be able to walk to bars, I don’t want the tourists, chaos, and crime of Fremont St right off my doorstep. I want to be able to go home, and relax in peace and quiet at night.

At some point in the future, I may move downtown. I love the idea, and I want to be a part of this community. However, it’s not right for me at this moment. But I must admit that it has made our induction experience far better. While I am sure that other regions are having some fun and enjoying themselves, it probably isn’t quite like our experience here in Vegas.

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