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.