Celeste Ramirez Diaz ’22 was born on Jan. 1, 2000, at 12:01 a.m. in Reynosa, Mexico. The mayor gifted her family financial support as she was the first baby to be born that year, and with that money they were able to move to the United States. In the digital story titled “Lucky,” Diaz presented her experience as a first-generation and Latinx student during the “Digital Stories: First Gen and Latinx Experiences” event on Nov. 1 in the Gund Gallery’s Community Foundation Theater.
Students in the Contemporary Latino Literature and Film (SPAN 381) class presented videos last week as part of the course’s community-engaged learning component. This semester the course is taught by Professor of Spanish Clara Román-Odio. Kenyon students also worked with Mount Vernon High School students who are in Kenyon Academic Partnership (KAP) Spanish class.
Román-Odio has incorporated community-engaged learning in other classes she teaches, such as Cultural Production of the Borderlands (SPAN 380) and Stories of Knox County
“If you’re not engaged with real issues and you’re not confronted with them, or if you don’t tackle them, truly, everything becomes an abstract argument,” she said. “So I think that embodying the argument into experiential learning can be very beneficial.”
Students in the class were divided into groups of two or three and they made a digital story about someone from their group. On Thursday, there were five presentations made by Kenyon students about their personal experiences, and two videos in Spanish produced by the high school students about The House on Mango Street, a novel both classes read. Kenyon students worked with the high schoolers to help them in the process of making the videos. Together, students explored Latinx first-generation student experiences both through literature and digital storytelling.
“Our hope is that these presentations will expand our horizons of inclusivity and diversity. I also wanted to provide my students the opportunity to build a bridge towards themselves, especially what it means to be a first-generation and/or Latinx student here in Ohio,” Román-Odio said at the beginning of the event. “We hope that that bridge then will extend to you all so you can participate in what they discovered in their journey.”
The first digital story, titled “Rooted,” depicted Samuel Canceso’s ’21 experience as a first-generation Latinx student and some of the difficulties he faced in a predominantly white school. “I found myself wearing a mask, a mask that was created in hopes to fit in but rather than helping me, it was causing pain and self-hatred. I had become a completely different person while wearing my mask. I became a ghost. I was lost,” Canceso said in the video. After reconnecting with his culture, he felt comfortable with his identity again. “Being rooted in my culture shifted self-hatred to joy and inspiration. In those roots, I found my true self; rooted, I am a successful, maskless, unashamed Mexican-American.”
Román-Odio noted that she was very pleased with all the presentations. “They are deep and show that [the students] worked with an understanding of themselves in this context, and I think that they themselves were surprised at the outcomes,” she said.
Jorge Dumenigo ’21 is one of the students in the class who helped make a digital story about his classmate, and found the experience insightful. “I think, through listening to various stories, I learned more about the importance of speaking, talking about your story and being genuine about it,” he said. “Listening to these stories has inspired me to look into myself and to figure out more about myself and my story.”