Last Saturday I had the honor of being invited by Professor Maria De Moya to speak to Latino high schoolers at the 2016 Pasos al Futuro Summer Symposium hosted by DePaul University’s College of Communication. As DePaul’s website explains, “The two-week workshop, sponsored by the McCormick Foundation, provides students with the opportunity to develop technical and critical thinking skills to assess credible news sources and learn the importance of good journalism in a healthy democracy.”
A number of students from Juárez and Clemente were in attendance, as well as students from other Chicago-area schools. Some were there with dreams of becoming journalists, while a few saw themselves as writers-in-the-making. It was encouraging to see so many young people taking an active interest in their future lives; when I was their age, my greatest concerns usually centered on next weekend’s bacchanalia. Professor De Moya informed me when I arrived that the students had been working on their video projects that morning, and I later learned they would be traveling to NBC Tower to visit the Telemundo studio. Chicago-getters, every last one.
Below is a video of the talk I gave, along with most of the Q&A session that followed. I begin by briefly discussing my childhood and how the ugly facts of my earlier years thrust me into the examined life of a writer, from which I move into a discussion on the responsibility of Latino journalists to provide correctives to the mainstream narratives about their people and places of origin. The video ends with me answering a student’s question about the looming election race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
The students asked surprisingly great questions, including perhaps the most difficult one: how to balance work life with social life. I showed up with the intention of impressing upon them the possibility of their dreams and goals, but also warning them to be ready for a long, protracted struggle. I hope too many of them weren’t scared straight.
I want to thank Professor De Moya again for inviting me to share whatever little wisdom and experience I have. Programs like Pasos al Futuro give me hope for the future of what it is I’m trying to do. My hope is that, if nothing else, I’m at least clearing another path through the jungle of Latino journalism for those behind me to exploit and take to new places.
Apologies in advance for the audio, which is a problem at certain moments, especially during the students’ questions. I also had to clip the last 10 minutes due to the audio becoming, well, inaudible. I’m a writer, not a filmmaker, so it was a good learning experience.