Juntos Students Publish 2nd Book with Support from Assistant Professor Crystal Chen Lee

Book cover for The Voices of Our People: Nuestras Verdades

NC State College of Education Assistant Professor Crystal Chen Lee, Ed.D., tells students there is power in their voices, and six Garner Magnet High School students found that power through a book published this spring.

The students are part of Juntos, a program in North Carolina that works to unite community partners to provide Latinx students and their parents with knowledge, skills and resources to prevent youth from dropping out of school and to encourage families to work together to gain access to higher education.

Through a partnership with Lee, the Literacy Community Initiative at the college’s Friday Institute for Educational Innovation and the Department of Teacher Education and Learning Sciences, Juntos students published their first book, The Roots of Our People: From One World to Another, last year.

The students — Janette Ramirez, Aldo Galvan Hernandez, Luis Cervantes, Andrea Zavala-Cervantes, Kevin Garcia-Galindo and Briza Cruz — spent the 2018-19 school year working on a sequel, entitled The Voices of Our People: Nuestras Verdades.

Literacy Community Initiative Forms New Partnership with CORRAL

Using an NC State Outreach and Engagement Incentive Grant, the Literacy Community Initiative partnered in September with CORRAL Riding Academy, a nonprofit that pairs rescued horses with girls in high-risk situations while providing physical and emotional support. The cohort of girls involved with CORRAL this year will be working with the Literacy Community Initiative to publish a book about their experiences, to be released in the spring. 

“CORRAL works with girls in high-risk populations and the Literacy and Community Initiative  partners with community organizations who work with marginalized youth; CORRAL fit right into our framework for students to Write, Engage, and Lead,” Lee said.

They will read passages from the book and participate in a question and answer session during the “Celebrating The Voices of Our People: Nuestras Verdades” event as part of Latinx Heritage Month on Oct. 1 at 7 p.m. in the Fishbowl Forum at D.H. Hill Jr. Library. The event, which also includes a book signing, is open to the public. Those interested in attending should RSVP by Sept. 27.

“Not only do they write, but they’re very good at speaking their truths. We think about critical literacy in the sense that you use reading and writing and thinking to really lead your community and speak against the dominant discourse, and that’s what the students do through their writing and through their words,” Lee said.

The book features blackout poetry, essays, memoirs and ethnographies written in English and Spanish that share students’ personal experiences as immigrants as well as their families’ experiences. Students also designed the artwork that appears on the cover and throughout the book.

The Voices of Our People is really about the students advocating for the immigrant community. Nuestras Verdades means ‘our truths,’ so they really wanted to talk about their personal truths,” Lee said.

The goal of the Literacy Community Initiative (LCI), a collaboration between the College of Education’s Department of Teacher Education and Learning Sciences, Friday Institute and community-based organizations, is to build university and community-based partnerships by amplifying the voices of marginalized students through publication, advocacy and leadership.

Lee said the public readings help students to not only gain confidence, but to learn to become leaders and advocates in their communities. The project has also helped to create a sense of community among those involved.

“What’s really exciting is that what the students do also draws their families together. They didn’t know each other before LCI, but now they have a common goal and mission that draws them together,” she said.