Watching for Hurricanes

As the damage of Hurricane Florence continues to be assessed, we were reminded that it was another hurricane, Katrina, that set Nathalie’s journey into motion. Two years ago, Nathalie shared her story with students from JMU’s School of Media Arts and Design who were struck to learn that Nathalie was a 17 year-old high school sophomore completely alone in the United States. Nathalie will be graduating from Harrisonburg High School in May, 2019, and has JMU in mind as her college of choice. She will enter college a few years older than her peers, but with the strength and wisdom of someone who knows how to survive and move forward against the fiercest headwinds. Thanks to SMAD students, Melissa Blum and Mike Gefell, for helping Nathalie to share her story.

Onward and Upward – ¡Adelante!

Emily is a creative, academically talented student involved in marching band. An inspirational motto on her bedroom wall reads, “Onward and Upward!”  The words speak to the positive possibilities for one’s self where the goal is not simply to survive hardship, but to progress and rise in spirit. The Spanish word adelante is sometimes used by Hispanic and Latinx serving organizations, advocacy groups and community programs to speak to this same spirit of perseverance and empowerment.

There are many individuals like Emily who progress through school with excellence and are recognized by teachers as outstanding students. What sometimes goes unrecognized is the toll on their spirit along the way. It’s confusing to be encouraged by one adult to reach for your dreams, and advised by another not to reach too far. It’s exhausting to be promoted as a “model student,” an ideal example for an entire Hispanic community. It’s traumatizing to learn that while you might be able to achieve your college dream, the status of your family in the U.S. is not certain. Fortunately, organizations like SLI exist to provide a space where students can feel safe to share their particular yet common experiences and receive strength in spirit from peers and mentors

Emily says, “I shouldn’t be scared to say what I want to say…or scared to do anything that I want to do…in the future.” We agree and we support her.

Thanks to Courtney Coffey and Bryan McIntyre of James Madison University’s School of Media Arts and Design (SMAD) for producing and editing this film for SMAD 303. The original full piece was screened at DocFest 2017, Harrisonburg Court Square Theatre. Thanks to Professor Shaun Wright for supporting JMU and SLI students.

Lupe….and kittens!

The quietest people in the room are sometimes the ones that have the most to say. That’s our friend Lupe. Kind, artistic, family oriented, reflective, funny, fearless, observant, resilient, a fierce reader…and tiny.  Plus kittens!  Much thanks to Nicole Goldstein and Tyler Beatty in JMU’s School of Media Arts and Design for their work on this project.

Alienation

JMU School of Media Arts and Design students, Buddy Harlow and Dan Johnson, interviewed several SLI Scholars from Harrisonburg High School about their feelings of difference, to produce this poignant film of the alienation experienced by many high school Latinos in our communities. The short film was screened at Harrisonburg’s Court Square Theater as one entry in the Fall 2015 DocFest. Much thanks to JMU’s School of Media Arts and Design, School of Communication Studies, Court Square Theater, and Three Notch’d Brewing Company for sponsoring the event, and to Professor Shaun Wright for his commitment to engaged teaching and community betterment.