Mesa Students Address Personal Borders Through Storytelling

VAMP audience prepares  to hear students personal testimonies.

KC Longley

VAMP audience prepares to hear students’ personal testimonies.

Lora Neshovska , Editor-In-Chief

San Diego Mesa College hosted its first artistic collaboration with the organization So Say We All on April 21. This event featured seven Mesa students who presented intimate and emotional life stories to members of the community.

So Say We All is a performing arts, non-profit organization native to San Diego -dedicated to providing a platform for performers and writers to share their stories. The organization does various types of workshops and publications with writers of all ages, but also a series of Visual/Audio/Monologue Performances, or “VAMP.”

On the night of the Mesa College VAMP, Jessica Hilt, a previous participant and current volunteer introduced So Say We All as a “community of writers that help each other not feel so alone in the world.” Mesa English Professor Jennifer Derilo said that throughout this process organizers and mentors “hear from these voices that are often underrepresented.”

This event has been held in various venues, including local community colleges such as San Diego City and Southwestern. For the first time this year, Mesa College and SSWA worked together to deliver VAMP to the Mesa campus.

The theme of the event was “Borders,” which the students presented through emotional articulation and powerful imagery. One of the students’ stories was a personal account of the civil war in Liberia, which evoked a significant moving response from the audience.

Mesa English Professor and VAMP co-coordinator Marie Alfonsi said she initially became involved with VAMP while working at City College. This initial experience with VAMP inspired Alfonsi to bring the event to Mesa College.

Out of 80 stories submitted by Mesa students, seven were chosen for presentation. These students’ stories had gone through an extensive revision process with mentors and professors. With Mesa professors such as Alfonsi, the writers devoted hours of work toward perfecting their stories and performances.

This progress is greatly inspirational to writers, according to Derilo. “Students feel empowered, they’re very supported by the school, the faculty, by their own peers,” she added. “As a department and a school, we get to showcase the power of collaborative learning.”

VAMP Program Coordinator, Julia Evans stated that “in a scholarly setting, [storytelling] can be transformative for the students.” Evans described the writing process as therapeutic and empowering.

According to Alfonsi, the turnout at Mesa College VAMP was better than expected . “It was a success beyond our expectation,” she said. Attendance was higher than predicted with approximately 220 guests and standing room only.

Evans was also pleased with the event, saying, “It’s amazing the amount of support this college has.”

As a non-profit organization, So Say We All aims to bring justice and provide a forum for expression to writers and performers of all ages, Alfonsi said. Highlighting this importance, Alfonsi claimed, “As we strive for equity in education, the VAMP showcase seemed to be perfectly aligned with those goals.”