Bridging Borders 2017
by Juliana Aragón Fatula
|Bridging Borders 2017 Writing Workshop
at Rawlings Library, Pueblo, CO.
Today, I’d like to focus on a project I’ve participated in the past three years. Bridging Borders is a leadership program for young women and empowers them with skills, builds confidence, teamwork, entrepreneurship. The future of our country falls in their hands and I’m proud to be a mentor and to assist the teens with writing skills through my writing workshops at the Rawlings Library.
The El Pueblo History Museum and the Department of Social Services sponsors the teens and provides excellent mentors. I happen to be one of the mentors being honored this year at a banquet to celebrate the year 2017 and the Bridging Borders Graduates: Anysha, Cheyene, Elian, Reigna, Zoe, Alyssa, Jakiah, Jaylee, Alex, Jaden, Elena, Sophia, Amaya, Taylor, Marisol, Rhyia, Iliana, Chloe, Anika, Mayala. I know these young ladies will become future leaders, some even political leaders and I’m very proud to have been a part of Bridging Borders.
When I met the first-year participants I didn’t know what to expect. What I found that day: writers, poets, confident, intelligent, creative, high-level thinkers. The second year I met young ladies who taught me more than I taught them. They were so welcoming and eager to learn. I kept in touch with a couple of incredible ladies and followed them on their path to freshman college.
This year, the third year of my involvement, the number of ladies grew: I met a larger group than in the previous years. I met ladies ready for whatever I threw at them. They met my challenges and exceeded my hopes for a productive writing workshop. I asked for volunteers and they volunteered. I asked for million-dollar words and they impressed me with their vocabulary; they are young, at-risk, and marginalized by society.
I asked them to write for five minutes. Five minutes later they volunteered to share their poem with the group and impressed me again with their eloquence, command of the stage, their confidence in their writing. I cried tears of happiness. I laughed with them and hugged them and told them how proud I am of them. My day was spent surrounded by young leaders who will make a difference in this country and change the way we treat women in society.
They asked questions about writing and I beamed with joy at their enthusiasm. In my experiences of teaching and conducting writing workshops with teenagers I’ve witnessed these teens have a lot to say; they are writing from their hearts about their truth: the bullying, suicide, abandonment, but also about soccer, dance, music, love, and hope.
While they wrote, I circulated the room and observed their hands and eyes. They were not given writing prompts other than to write without limitations about anything but to make it memorable; they wrote incredible poems and left me with their dreams, fears, hopes, and questions about their world in the twenty-first century.
My first book of poetry, Crazy Chicana in Catholic City, juliana-aragon-fatula bowerhousebooks was provided for them by their sponsors and if they weren’t busy writing; they were busy reading my book. The delight I felt when I watched them write for five minutes non-stop and read through the table of contents in my book gave me a sensation of being part of something. Developing the minds of these young ladies with the power of words and meaning in their lives brought me tremendous joy, honor, pride, and humility.
This has been one of the most satisfying experiences of my sixty years; I’ve had many journeys, but to share with these young leaders my past: a teenage pregnant high-school-drop out who went on to be the first in my family to graduate college, write and publish books, teach, tour with the Department of Defense entertaining the men and women in the military, travel the world, perform on stages across the country, and to end up in Southern Colorado the place of my ancestors, validated I have fulfilled my destiny to work with at-risk-youth and empower them to express themselves with spoken and written word.
They give me hope and hope is all we can ask for in this time of racism, bigotry, xenophobia, misogyny, and homophobia. Have I left anyone out? This country needs new leaders and I know these young ladies will bring it. How fortunate for us that they have been empowered to teach us what women contribute to society and how they mold the next generation of leaders. I learned about writing workshops from my mentor, Sandra Cisneros and The Macondo Foundation. I teach what I learn to the future writers of diversity: LGBTQ, and ethnic writers from the nation
|Macondo Foundation Writing Workshop San Antonio, TX
Founded in 1995 Mission:
The Macondo Writers Workshop is an association
of socially-engaged writers united to advance
creativity, foster generosity, and honor community.
|Sandra Cisneros and Laurie Ann Guerrero
at Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, San Antonio
|Sandra Cisneros and Juliana at Rawlings Library