Submitted by the Funhouse Commons.
On Saturday, June 26, 23 youth 12-18 years old from Lopez, Orcas and San Juan Islands joined together outside at Lopez Public School for a day of boisterous activities, discussion, and friendship. Participants were engaged in activities that stretched their teamwork and leadership skills, all while having fun and working to stay hydrated in the heat of the day.
“It was SO awesome! I loved meeting kids from other islands,” Evelyn Aguilar-Clavel, an incoming eighth-grader on Lopez who especially enjoyed the games, said. “We worked together as a team and it reinforced the importance of working with each other and listening and helping each other.”
The event was led by Sergio Barrera and Brenda Ochoa, who facilitated the weekly video-based La Cima Mentor Program, a project which began in October 2020, coordinated by The Funhouse Commons. Ochoa and Barrera delivered all material in English and Spanish throughout the event, which they describe as an important way to honor the cultures that Latinx students walk between in their daily lives.
Anthony Conejo, an incoming eighth-grader on Orcas, also reflected on the lessons behind the games he played when he said, “In the ball-tossing game, you needed to have help from other people. To help you think about how in life you need help from other people, you can’t just do it by yourself.”
Sofia Garcia, who will be a freshman at Western Washington University this fall, shared that the day allowed her to see how differently people interact together.
“Even if it was just a game, you really get to see different sides of people,” she said. “It’s so different for each person and how they use their skills.”
Garcia added that it also became clear that young people take advantage of opportunities in varying ways.
“It really opened my eyes to see that I am fortunate enough to realize and acknowledge that these support systems are happening and that I am taking advantage of them, which is so great,” she said.
What’s the significance of schools and nonprofits creating opportunities for Latinx youth to interact in all-Latinx environments? Participants shared different perspectives on this.
“You kind of have the same story. Not the same-same, but you connect with each other,” Anthony said. “When you talk to a Latino, you understand them more, because you probably have a similar past.”
Ulises Velazquez, an incoming ninth-grader on Lopez, shared: “Outside of gatherings organized by my family and family friends, I’ve never had the opportunity to work with Latino instructors and a group of just Latino kids. It felt different, in a good way. We had more in common.”
The Funhouse Commons, Lopez Island Resource Center and the Joyce Sobel Family Resource Center of San Juan Island all shared resources to make the day possible. The event was a culmination of the school year-long Latinx Mentor Program, and a chance to light interest amongst participants for future Latinx-centered programming on all three islands. To learn more about the Funhouse Commons Latinx Mentor Program, contact Coordinator Trillium Swanson at firstname.lastname@example.org.