It is easy to complain, and believe the complaints, about Binghamton. Every town has its flaws, and they are even more obvious when the weather is below freezing for more than half the year. It is common to hear, often from those who come from upper-middle class homogenous suburbs like mine, that Binghamton is a “run-down ghetto.”

However, Binghamton is not a dump, a slum or a ghetto. Those terms, which already carry a racially charged connotation, are things I hear too often to describe this temporary hometown of ours, simply because people misunderstand the area and are unwilling to learn.

Binghamton is a diverse city filled with neighbors who invite you to barbecues, strangers who will help dig your car out of the snow, activists who are working endlessly to create change and students who provide different and important perspectives. Binghamton has its problems. We have a jail that disproportionately incriminates black and brown residents; a jail in which we have documented nine deaths since 2011. We have government officials who are not efficiently responding to the opioid crisis, schools that contribute to the prison pipeline and developers who are gentrifying the area, which displaces low-income residents.

These are facts about Binghamton, but these problems don’t make Binghamton a bad city, or a bad place to live. Instead, these problems should motivate students to fight — fight for equality, justice and care for all. As students, we hold a unique position of privilege in this community. We should use it to our advantage, forcing a resurrection of the town and our relationship with it so there is a greater focus on creating opportunities for Binghamton residents.

Binghamton has potential, but we must educate ourselves and work together in order to fully reach it. Like I said before, this city is misunderstood. We must start trying to understand it.

I have been lucky to have met and been supported by a tremendous amount of incredible people during my past four years here at Binghamton University and in this city.

To Mom, Dad, Kyle and Lela — Thank you for always being there for me on this journey, and all the journeys to come.

To Tom’s — Thanks for the good times. Couldn’t have done it without you.

To Pipe Dream — Thank you for teaching me about this wonderful community we live in, and for reminding me to always keep my eyes open.

To Truth Pharm and JUST — Keep kicking ass. It’s an honor to work alongside you.

To my Oak Folk — Thank you for keeping me entertained and laughing, and for providing me with ridiculous stories I can tell people so they’ll (somehow, hopefully) think I’m cool. You have made our house a home. To Kaitlin, Julia, Aly and Becca — Thank you for accepting and loving me for all my weirdness. I am so lucky to have each of you in my life. To my Jillian — Thank you for understanding me better than almost anyone. Thank you for answering my incessant phone calls, making me smile and bringing me peace of mind. I am always so proud of you. To Jacob, Sara, Megan, Rachael, Megan and Regan — You guys are my everything. You have been there every step of the way and I can’t wait to see where your next steps take you. You are the family I choose, all days and every day. Thank you endlessly, for all that I am.

And to the city of Binghamton — Thank you for providing the perfect backdrop for these past four years. Thanks for it all. A piece of my heart will remain with you forever.

Hannah Walter is a senior majoring in sociology.