This spring, fear and uncertainty gripped our nation. Young people were especially affected as their schools were shuttered and stay at home orders were issued. Feelings of fear, uncertainty and even anger were common. But for Unieque Solis, joy and hope were two feeling she chose to channel.
Unieque is the First Place winner of Omnitrans’ Youth Poetry Contest. Her 11-line poem (shared at the end of this article) titled “Ode to the IE” may be short, but it reflects her deep appreciation of the Inland Empire and her family that has lived here for generations.
Born and raised in San Bernardino, Unieque is an honor student, varsity soccer player, long-distance track runner, concert violinist and now, poet extraordinaire. When the stay at home orders came along, she called upon her large, sports-oriented family to organize epic, hours-long soccer matches in their backyard.
She admits that when the pandemic first started, she was sad, and missed her friends and the classes she loves at San Gorgonio High School. But Unieque quickly adapted to online everything, including classes and even virtual soccer practice.
“I was so impressed with how the school and the district handled school, and made it so that we could keep going,” she says.
Unieque’s vision of the Inland Empire has been molded by her close-knit family. Her parents both have roots in the Inland Empire; her father is from Rialto and her mother is from Fontana. Even though they admit to surviving rough childhoods, her parents still love the Inland Empire and have been deliberate about raising their children here.
“We wanted to give our kids every opportunity to grow up differently that we did,” said Rachel. “We feel that the Inland Empire is the place for us to do that.”
Unieque’s parents felt so moved to pledge their love of the IE that they made it part of Unieque’s name.
“It was intentional putting the I and E together in her name,” said mom Rachel.
Growing up, Unieque’s family took the bus everywhere – to the store, the park, and school. It was their only form of transportation for a while. Now, they use their car, but are glad that the bus option is still there.
Unieque says that the best part of living in the IE is having her family close by. She says, “if I want to see them, they’re just right down the street.”
If there is anything she would like to change about the Inland Empire, it would be to bring light and positivity to the homeless population. Unieque’s goal is to obtain undergraduate and graduate degrees in psychology at California State University, San Bernardino , which she hopes will equip her to do more for her community, including the homeless.
We’re happy that Unieque chose to share her appreciation of her community through her poem. There’s no denying that the love of her family, and their deep ties to the Inland Empire have kept them buoyed through tough times and will enable them to thrive going forward.