Student Storytelling

Capital High students share immigration experiences through film in ‘The Newcomers Project’

When Adrian Sotelo began working as a site coordinator at Capital High School with nonprofit Communities In Schools of New Mexico, primarily supporting new arrivals to the country, he initially focused on English tutoring for the students—something he now describes as a misjudgment.

“These kids are in class seven periods a day, and they’re already struggling to keep up in class. Adding another session where they need to do academics was too much for them,” Sotelo explains. “Part of my job is to sit with the students and get to know them as human beings. I was so captivated by the idea of their stories…Why did they make the dangerous journey over here? Some of them leave their parents behind, some of them are living with relatives. I really wanted to focus on that.”

Last semester, Sotelo contacted arts-based storytelling organization LittleGlobe to help his students tell their stories. He and Anaid Garcia, a film-maker and trainer at LittleGlobe, worked together to set up video production and digital storytelling sessions for Communities In Schools students in Spanish and compensated the students with $250 stipends for more than a month’s worth of film-making.

“I was very excited to be a part of it,” Garcia tells SFR. “We try to not overwhelm people, because we work primarily with people that have no experience with anything like this, and give them a little taste of the industry.”

Throughout the fall semester, students learned the basics of creating their own short films and explored other methods of self expression, including narration, poetry, illustration, photography and stop-motion animation. This week the students will publicly present six short films detailing their experiences as new arrivals in a collection titled The Newcomers Project.

Garcia says the students were also able to treat the projects as a form of art therapy.

Juan Jacquez, one student who will present his film, says his story will detail his journey to America when he was 16. When creating his video, Jacquez says he used several pre-existing video clips he felt “remind him of that moment he experienced.”

Another student, Axel Menjivar, tells SFR he most enjoyed “remembering all the details of the journey, whether they were good or traumatic” during the writing process of his video, “Story of My Life.”

For Baixon Lopez, narrating had the most impact on his connection to the film he created. “Emotions came out when recording on my voiceover,” he tells SFR.

Collaboration was key to making the project work, Garcia added. In addition to Communities In Schools and LittleGlobe working together, Fusion Tacos provided free food at the workshops and local State Farm agent Jairo Gutierrez shared his journey as an immigrant with students at an early session.

“We all share that common denominator—a lot of us, especially in this community, are from immigrant families, and we have that one thing that connects us,” Sotelo says. “We really couldn’t have done it without everybody putting in and seeing value in something like this.”

The Newcomers Project screening party will begin at 5:30 pm on Wednesday, Feb. 7 at the Santa Fe Teen Center, located at 6600 Valentine Way.

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