Discovering the Power of Story: Monte del Sol Charter School

Capturing the El Otro Lado experience in the schools can be difficult. An emerging experience that grows over the course of the weeks, it is individual and yet, it is universal. Every one comes to the classroom with their own stories, but as the teachers, teaching artists, and young minds deepen their understanding of themselves and explore their sense of belonging, a community is formed.

We asked each of this years’ Teaching Artists to reflect on the first semester in EOL and their words were shared with students, families, and the school community. Now we would like to share them with you:

“Hay tantisimas fronteras / Que dividen a la gente / Pero por cada frontera / Existe tambien un Puente.” -Gina Vales

The term frontera has been used publicly to express the division of two cultures or to create a line between two communities. With barriers expanding, it has become a more evident issue to create bonds that will help shed light to paralleled identities that are being separated within the New Mexican communities and communities all around. Through the sharing of stories, El Otro Lado, has begun to form a bridge that contributes to this growing connection that has been severed between two cultures for too long.

Creating a collective place to hold stories of individuals I worked alongside Isabel Correal and her c-block class to create an intimate alter, ofrenda, in preparation for El Dia de Los Muertos. On the first day of our meeting, we discussed who had individuals who had passed on from their lives and were not surprised that almost everyone raised their hands. We discussed what an ofrenda was and why we were going be putting one together, with confused stares in the students eyes we decided to jump into learning how to make flowers and answer questions along the way. The vibrant colors and energy suddenly flooded the classroom as students started to ask if they could keep their flowers, if they could bring in a photo of their deceased pet, or if they could take some paper with them to make more flowers. Isabell and I obliged to each of their requests. During the project day of making our ofrendas, we were amazing to how our students flourished. The group had conversations on family member and what the experience of having them pass was like. Some of the stories that were shared touched on travesuras the student did like, making trenzas in abuelitos pelo (braiding grandparents hair) and stories like the adventures tio took on his motorcycle rides. It was a reflective moment, but an honest one nevertheless where we got to see how these individuals impacted the student’s lives. As we closed our circle, we stepped into putting our ofrenda together as a group. With designers, artists, teachers, students, and large-scale florists all on hand making this possible, the final piece was marvelous.

Leading into lunch we still had a few finish touches to make when a group of peers came in. One student in particular was touched to have her grandfather present in the room. I was told that was the only photo the family had of him it was very dear to her. She asked that he be well taken care of.

This initial point of engagement is one that is to steadily build a connection across our local community and expanding out. The relationships that are being built on the foundation of talking and sharing in a communal space are ones that can be apply in multiple facets of our lives. EOL is a seed that is planted in our growing youth with the hope they will carry it into their lives and the communities they interact with. These individuals/students whom I have the future of collaborating with have a grand voice and amazing thoughts towards improvement, I thank them every day for bringing their true selves to the class.

Muchas gracias jovenes, es un placer convivir con ustedes!

Daisy Quezada
Teaching Artist