Student gallery to feature story of local immigrants
‘Passage to Paso/Paso a Paso’ exhibition opens May 20
–On Friday, May 20, the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District Gallery at Studios on the Park will debut its new exhibit titled “Passage to Paso/Paso a Paso.” The exhibit, presented in both English and Spanish, is a student project, involving over 60 high school students, that focuses on the stories of local immigrants and their journey to the city of Paso Robles. The gallery will feature student-photographed portraits, student-written narratives, and a student-produced sound collage of the participants’ voices from interviews. A reception will be held that evening from 5 – 6:30 with students, participants, and teachers on hand to talk about the project and answer questions.
“Passage to Paso/Paso a Paso” is a seven-week collaboration of students from the history and journalism programs at Paso Robles High School. These students created portraits and narratives based on interviews with 29 local immigrants to shed light on the motivations and conflicts surrounding immigration to the Paso Robles area during recent decades. “Students have worked to understand, document, and articulate the motivations and experiences of our newest neighbors within the context of America’s rich immigrant history,” said Geoffrey Land, world history teacher. The project displays the power of project-based learning and has given students real exposure to authentic storytelling, living history, and meaningful media skills, according to Jeff Mount, the high school’s journalism teacher.
The project was inspired by a 2015 visit to PRHS by Sonia Nazario, Pulitzer Prize winning author of “Enrique’s Journey.” As students in the honors dual immersion (bilingual) world history class studied immigration factors, they realized many newly arrived residents of Paso Robles could best illustrate the motivations and obstacles of persons moving from a home country. They teamed up with students in the nationally-recognized PRHS journalism program to record, photograph, and narrate the migration stories of willing local residents. They conducted face-to-face, lengthy interviews and asked each participant about life before leaving, the decision to leave, the journey, the challenges, and their dreams for the future.
The participants in this oral history project range in age from 15 to 57, and came from Mexico, Thailand, China, Brazil, the Philippines, Nigeria, El Salvador, and Vietnam. Some are English learners in classes at Cuesta College’s North County Campus, some are relatives or neighbors of students, and a few are students themselves. Some have already established themselves in the Paso Robles community (two are teachers in the school district) and one arrived only this past April.
Many students have gained deeper perspectives on the subject. “I was not fully aware of the great depth of sacrifice and the immense sorrow people face to come here,” ninth grader Natalia Bogdan wrote. “This is an opportunity to tell the truth about immigrants, and their stories of leaving family, often escaping grinding poverty and dangerous violence, to start over in a new country.”
“I’ve learned about the reality of immigrants’ lives,” sophomore Shelby Daniels said. “I understand that, while not all suffer great hardship, every individual has a unique, interesting story to tell.”
The project also will be student-published online at www.crimsonnewsmagazine.org and in a 36-page print booklet available at PRHS.
For more information contact:
• PRHS history teacher Geoffrey Land: firstname.lastname@example.org (805) 215-3516
• PRHS journalism teacher Jeff Mount: email@example.com (805) 434-8967