Local Young Latinas Share “The Ones I Bring With Me”

Clarion’s Al Éxito donate “The Ones I Bring With Me” to the CG Elementary / Middle School’s library. Front row: Bibian Alvarado, Jackie Borrayes, Jaelene Arroyo, Angela Castro 2nd row: Alexandria Ramos, Angela Garcia, Ami Martinez, librarian Joyce Keeling 3rd row: Coordinator Becky Ahrendsen, Cyndi Fregoso, Cassy Mendoza

Clarion-Goldfield middle-schoolers in the Al Éxitomentorship program donated three copies of a book they helped create to Clarion’s public and school libraries. The copies are available for check-out. 

“The Ones I Bring with Me: Iowa’s Young Latinas on Identity, Education, and Success” debuted at a March 9 event the students attended at Drake University, whose Community Press spent two years creating it, collaborating with five Al Éxitochapters, including Clarion/Belmond’s.  Al Éxitopairs young Latinas with community mentors, who encourage the girls to pursue educational achievement.

The book features a photograph of the Clarion/Belmond Al Éxitogroup and poems by Samantha Naranjo of Belmond-Klemme and Marlud Landeros, formerly a student at Clarion-Goldfield, presently at Britt- West Hancock. The book’s alternates between English and Spanish as middle-school age Iowan Latinas describe their concerns about identity, immigration, families, growing up, and other topics.

In her Editor’s Note that open the book, Press director Carol Spaulding-Kruse described the book and the ideal of a “community press” as a collaborative act of communal storytelling. In a description that would be familiar to most conscientious non-fiction writers, she wrote that “as [Drake students] shaped interviews into stories, they learned that it is a complex act to represent the voices of others, recognizing that Latinos and Latinas in the Unites States have too often been spoken for, with little chance to speak from their own lived experience.”

When asked to describe their day at Drake and the book, the girls spoke enthusiastically en masse:

“We thought it was really inspiring and we didn’t think [Marlud] could write like that!”

“We’re proud of her – and that she wants to work with government.”

The girls said they hoped to pursue careers in nursing, engineering, law, cosmetology, and “just want[ing] to make a difference.” They were especially enthusiastic about the event’s speaker, Lt. Col. Consuelo Kickbusch, the highest ranking Latina in U.S. Army combat support (retired), whose speech echoed themes in the book:

 “It was really touching, like her words, like what she said, it was really true –“

 “She said that nothing is impossible –“

“- Education is important, and there are no excuses –”

“—And to never be embarrassed of your parents, because they’re why you’re here.”

“She never held back, she just said what she felt.”

“She sold her high school diploma, traded it in for money to bury her father.”

“Everybody cried.”

“She made us laugh, too.”

“She loved her mom, even though her mom never said ‘I love you’, never expressed how she felt -”

 “She said to succeed in life and never stop trying – “

 “Your race doesn’t define you. Who you are defines you.”

The U.S. Census states that as of 2012, almost one in ten (9.4%) of Wright County residents are Latino/a.