By Nicolas Waters
“If you had to share one story with the rest of the world, what would you say?”
This question was introduced by Dear World, an interactive award-winning portrait project that strives to unite people through pictures in their impactful and distinct message-on-skin style.
Dear World provided students with the opportunity to share their personal stories on Thursday, April 27, in the Brower Student Center.
The evening included a two-part event: a storytelling portion and a photo reveal of the College’s many participants of the project.
Katie Greenman, a facilitator and storyteller, has worked with the project since 2015. She led the event in a welcoming fashion.
“Working with the Dear World team is one of the reasons I feel so lucky in this life,” Greenman said. “I get to do work that I love, meet people at their most real and honest moments and get to work with people who are truly driven by a love of people.”
A dimly lit lamp glowed on each speaker’s face from behind the podium, and their individual portraits fixated on the audience before them.
Delisson Bueno, a sophomore health and exercise major on the pre-med track, opened up for the first time about the tragic death of his grandfather.
Bueno’s grandfather passed away in a motor vehicle accident caused by black ice after a severe snowstorm. Around 3 a.m. on the morning of the accident, his father woke him to break the devastating news.
“I leaned over on the sink, and I felt like I was going to pass out,” Bueno said. “My best friend was gone and I didn’t even know why.”
Bueno lost his grandfather at an early age, but assured himself that the inseparable love and relationship with his best friend would live on forever.
Carlie Horton, a sophomore iSTEM and urban elementary education double major, described her experience after she had a breakdown over spring break.
Horton strives for perfection. Being snowed in as she watched her friends on social media enjoy spring break made her feel excluded. With school and caring for her family leaving her little free time, Horton found herself overwhelmed.
“Every little thing that had just been building up, I finally let go,” she said.
Through additional help, self-reflection and the undivided support from her family, she expressed her significantly improved grasp in handling her extensive responsibilities and recognizing that no one is perfect.
Gabe Salazar, a junior interactive multimedia major, shared his experience facing judgement from others based off his ethnicity, skin color and sexual orientation.
One time, when Salazar was walking home from school in seventh grade, three male classmates began shouting homophobic and racially-charged slurs in his direction.
Not unfamiliar to the treatment, he remained passive and ignored the group, until they began throwing rocks, water bottles and garbage.
Salazar ran home in fear. The incident had undoubtedly rattled him, as he immediately found long-term refuge in his bedroom.
“That was the moment in my life that my identity as a gay, Filipino immigrant would change my life. Not for the better, but for the worst,” Salazar said.
He further admitted that his personal journey hasn’t been easy. It continues to this day. Salazar confidently expressed that he’s “thriving,” and proud to be at the current point in his life.
Sabrina Arauz, a sophomore graphic design major, shared her lifelong struggle to find acceptance through multiple situations involving people within the white and hispanic communities.
From an early age, Arauz and her Spanish-speaking family had been approached on a variety of occasions by strangers who were not accepting of her family.
People would urge Arauz and her family to go back to their own country or attack them with racial slurs. Arauz has taken additional action in combating these slurs and stereotypes through personal projects.
At an art critique, she was told that she didn’t know what it was like to be a true minority, and was even accused of being “too pale” to belong to her own family.
“My pride for my country, my culture, my family is all I have,” Arauz said. “It’s hard to feel not accepted by the Hispanic community, the white community, any community.”
Although puzzled by the lengthy degree of rejection and disapproval of her and her family from both Hispanic and white communities, Arauz remains resilient. She is proud of herself, her family, her country and her culture with a contagious level of confidence.
It evidently wasn’t difficult for the audience to quickly relate with the speakers on a personal level.
“It was unbelievable to me how connected the room was in each of those moments,” said Lauren Plawker, a senior psychology major. “I think people were finally beginning to understand that they aren’t alone in their struggles.”
The heartfelt unveiling of personal experiences was followed by a video montage, featuring a multitude of different representatives who participated in Dear World’s open portrait shoot.
“Bringing Dear World to (the College) was such an important experience to help highlight issues and conversations that people were hungry to have, but thought they were alone,” Greenman said.
Although each person had a different story to tell, Dear World portrayed that as a community, we’re not so different after all.
“So many students were bringing up stories and experiences, while at the same time sharing how much they wanted to really get to know people and feel more understood,” Greenman said. “These portraits are the conversation starters to make that happen.”