On Thursday April 22 in the PAC the ELL students will be telling their stories through their artwork. The presentation will include talking suitcases that will contain objects to tell their stories of struggles and accomplishments as a minority student.
The students began the Talking Suitcase project towards the end of third quarter. They also began writing papers about their expectations, challenges, opportunities, and achievements. Students’ artwork in the suitcases helped illustrate their experiences.
“I enjoyed doing it.” said Junior Nellya Scheurmann, “It was fun to put my memories on a piece of paper.”
Shana Bregenzer has been a language development teacher for eight years. The first time she had her students do the talking suitcase project was four years ago, and she feels that the challenges facing minority students have changed.
“The experience was very different for minority students eight years ago,” said Bregenzer. “I had a student who had literally walked, by himself, from El Salvador to Buffalo because his parents were already here and had to leave him. But when we would walk the halls here, he was afraid to walk alone. Before I had kids, I was skinnier, and I would walk with him. People thought I was a student, and I could hear the students yell at him, ‘Go back to your own country!’ and ‘Dirty Mexican!’ It was just heartbreaking.”
Since the project started, minority students have begun to feel more comfortable and the level of racism has decreased. Bregenzer sees the project as an opportunity for minority students to become more comfortable with who they are.
“There are a lot of students who hide who they are when they should be proud,” said Bregenzer. “It will be tough for some students. I hope it goes well. I have full faith in our student body. We have had students in the audience crying and saying, ‘I’m so sorry I never talked to you before.’ I don’t expect disrespect to happen.”
“I think it’s a good way to show everybody that we are all more alike than different,” said Junior Ashley Johnson.
All teachers have been informed of the presentations, which will begin at the start of every block. After Thursday, the Talking Suitcases might go on display.