Mesa students recall home

Johnaysha Davis-Escalera, Staff Writer

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Mesa College English department’s “Visual/Audio Monologue Performance”(VAMP) event made an appearance on campus for the second year in a row, on April 20, six Mesa College students performed personal self-written stories in front of a live audience.

The theme of this year’s VAMP event was “Recalling Home.” The event instructions encouraged students to “Write a story that takes place in or shows where you are from.” The showcase was produced by So Say We All, a non-profit arts collective based in Southern California. Story submission for VAMP was open to students from Feb. 6-28. Following the submission deadline, six stories were chosen from a collection of over 100 entries.  

The writers chosen to showcase their work were Grace Tuzolana, Pei Ou Yang, Orianna Rodriguez, George Cisneros, Iman Fakih, and Diamond Cavazos. Prior to the event each student worked with writing mentors and performance coaches to prepare a powerpoint presentation for the audience to view images that correlated to the story being performed.    

Performances discussed topics including their childhood homes, immigration, and death within their family. As the opening story, Cisneros took the opportunity to share the memories he had with his father as they built a new home.

After the event, Cisneros stated, “When I first got the prompt I had no idea what I was going to do.” He explained that his conversation with an acquaintance is what inspired him. He said “We started talking about how we built the house right next door. She was the one who told me ‘you have a perfect story, just write about that.’” Cisneros’s story highlighted the importance of family.

During the event, Diamond Cavazos’s story stood out compared to the others because its style was similar to a poem. Cavazos told the story of her childhood neighborhood and the trials she endured while living there.

Cavazos stated “It was a really difficult time…so I just reflected on it” She shared that writing makes her feel “free.” When asked how she plans on making sure that this type of literary expression remains present in today’s society, she said “You just have to keep putting yourself out there and looking for opportunities.”

Other student readers talked about their journey as they reloated from their native countries to the United States of America. For example, Tuzolana went into detail about her family’s encounter with soldiers in Tanzania and how it forced her family to relocate. She spoke about how certain events made her the woman she is today.

Iman Fakih told a story about the death of her older sister and the how the traumatic event  affected her. She spoke about the domestic violence her sister had endured and toll it had on her life. Fakih made sure to highlight her sister’s vibrant personality, as she spoke about how influential her older sister was for her.

When the event had come to an end, Professor Jennifer Derlio said, “I hope that they learn that their stories matter. We need to support these students, there’s so many stories that we don’t hear. I think we need to engage the students with those stories and bring them outside of the classroom.” Derilo expressed that watching the students progress was “incredibly moving.”

When asked about the reasoning behind this year’s theme, “Recalling Home” she said, “This theme was something that everyone had a story to share.”

For individuals interested in attending events similar to this one, So Say We All offers several regular shows a month. More information can be found at

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