Nonprofit Creates, Gives Biographies to Students
Oct 06, 2016 04:09PM
● By Tori LaRue
By Tori La Rue | [email protected]
Volunteers interviewed and photographed 92 Taylorsville High School students on Sept. 7, and professional writers will review and compile their stories into individualized books that will be delivered to the students mid-October.
“It’s a heartwarming thing to be part of,” Amy Chandler, nonprofit My Story Matters founder, said. “It’s amazing to see these kids say, ‘I do have a story, and somebody wanted to hear it.’ The smiles go a million miles.”
Chandler started the My Story Matters nonprofit three years ago out of Springville to give teens and children in challenging circumstances a written copy of their life story. My Story Matters has distributed nearly 700 biography books to youth since its institution.
Granite School District recommended Taylorsville High School for the program because of its high refugee and immigrant student population. Youngevity nutrition and Maeser Prep Academy in Lindon provided the volunteers for the Taylorsville interviews.
Mariana Zuniga, a THS senior, said she felt “excited” and “awkward” to share her story with the volunteers but didn’t want to pass up on an opportunity to learn more about herself and connect with others.
Zuniga’s mother emigrated from Mexico with two children and left her career in her home country, hoping to give her children the best employment and educational opportunities possible, Zuniga said. The family has never traveled back to Mexico, and Zuniga said she finds herself caught between two cultures.
“Sometimes I feel like I am not living up to my Mexican culture because I was raised in Utah,” Zuniga said. “I ask myself, ‘Am I too white-ified? Have I left my culture behind?’ And I try my best to balance the two.”
Zuniga plans to graduate from THS in June and go on to get her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, possibly in the medical field, before buying a house.
“I grew up in a single-parent household, and I’m just trying to live the American dream,” Zuniga said. “It’s rough sometimes, but I know I can always try harder.”
My Story Matters taught Zuniga to focus on her positive traits, she said.
“I got to learn more about myself and notice how great I really am,” Zuniga said.
Jared Deleon told the volunteers about his likes and aspirations at the beginning of his interview. His story includes spending time with his family and his plans to study political science in college and eventually work for the government.
Halfway through the interview, the conversation took a more personal turn, he said. Up to that point, Deleon hadn’t considered his life to be challenging, and he said he didn’t realize he’d overcome obstacles to become who he is. He told the volunteers about his struggles to fit into the local culture while helping his parents learn English and babysitting his brother.
“Even with that, I’ve been able to succeed academically in school and serve in different leadership positions,” Deleon said. “People don’t think Latinos fit into that category. They think they can’t accomplish those things, but I’ve been able to do that. I don’t let those stereotypes knock me down.”
Deleon said he was grateful for the volunteers who took the time to listen and helped him learn about himself.
“It was very eye-opening for me,” he said. “I realized that my story isn’t like any other person’s.”
To learn more about My Story Matters, visit mystorymatters.org.