Guest Editorial

Monday, January 29, 2007

'Freedom Writers' and 'fitting in'

I wanted to let you know that I read the review that Dana Larsen gave "The Freedom Writers" in the Pilot-Tribune. I thought that you got it just right.

I happened to actually see the movie twice this past weekend. Saw it the Friday that it premiered and on Sunday, and by the way, I cried like a baby both times.

This movie is just awesome and very inspirational. Kids and teachers need to see this movie.

I lived in California and went to school in New Port Beach (about 30 min. from Long Beach, where the real-life story that inspired the movie is set).

During the time these events happened, I was actually in 9th grade, the same as the kids in Freedom Writers in 1994.

Being a Hispanic I can actually relate to this movie a lot. I was never a rebel or in any kind of gang. I actually lived in a good neighborhood. But I did encounter the discrimination at school and the type casting that people tend to make about all the different races.

This movie has changed my views towards my own race and others as well. There are only a few movies that can touch you so profoundly in your life, let me tell you that this one was one of them.

I just wanted to thank you for giving this movie a great review; I sure hope that it makes people want to go see it. In a town that there are so many different races, this movie is perfect for young kids and adults as well.

As I stated earlier, I was never a rebel kid nor was I involved with the wrong crowd. But I did have "friends" that were. I knew friends that were killed because of the violence in the streets.

Living in California is like living in a whole different world from a small city like Storm Lake. People really don't like to get into each other's business. But if you do, you were in big trouble. Although Hispanics make a very large part of the population there, the discrimination is very alive. Race groups are all around, even here in Storm Lake. You can drive around and pretty much see what kind of ethnic group lives in that area, anywhere. Although the violence isn't as hard core as it was in 1994, you can still sense it today.

I came from El Salvador in 1987 and started school in 4th grade. Even back then you could feel the distance the teachers would give you just because you didn't speak English or because of your race. I definitely saw the groups that formed out and inside the classrooms. All the Hispanics were in one place; the whites/wealthy kids were in the better part of the school. Blacks had their big group as well, they liked being in the center of it all. No one dared confront them.

I witnessed several fights at school, none were as dramatic or dangerous as the one in the movie, but definitely very scary. Security made sure to take care of all of that.

I moved to Iowa when I was in 10th grade; and to my surprise I encountered some of the same experiences here. Although the violence was a lot less visible in Storm Lake High School, the race groups were noticeable. Not only did we have the Hispanics (we were only a handful at the time, a lot less then what we have now at the school.)

Going to school here made things difficult for me because I stood out. Not only was I the "New Girl" but I was Hispanic. I didn't really fit in with the whites because they all already had their groups. Living in a small town where everyone knows each other; where all the kids grow up going to the same schools throughout the years, I really didn't have a chance from the get- go. Another new thing for me was the Asian people. I had never really had a chance to interact with any Asian people before. Getting to know them and learn to interact with them was very different for me.

I definitely felt like an outsider. Where did I fit in with all the kids? Being in 9th-10th grade and not knowing who to hang around with is a big dilemma for a young girl. Eventually I grew accustomed to living here in Iowa and befriended many people from all ethnic backgrounds.

The years passed and here I am living in Iowa again working at Central Bank as a teller and helping customers from all different races. I love my job because I get to help out not only the English-speaking people but the Spanish-speaking ones as well. There are no groups here, we are all just one big happy family. Central Bank made me feel like I fit in no matter what my ethnic background was. And I am sure thankful for that.