Sarah Raine Cheney, AmeriCorps VISTA
According to Wikipedia a festival “is an event ordinarily celebrated by a community and centering on some characteristic aspect of that community and its religion or cultures.” What I particularly like about this definition is that it’s defined as an event celebrated by a community. If you search the word festival on either Marriam-Webster or Dictionary.com neither use the word community; I find that very disappointing. Either read my little bio on Opportunity Santa Fe or just spend a few minutes with me, and you’ll quickly learn of my love for Japan and its rich culture. So, when I hear “festival” I envision these huge events where community members joyously gather together to celebrate their culture. Now, throwback to May 4, 2018 to the Santa Fe Mentoring and Tutoring’s annual Festival of Learning and I get a taste for what I grew up fascinated with.
The Festival of Learning is an event designed to celebrate our youth and their growth during their yearlong mentorships. We invited the community to spend the evening with us at SITE Santa Fe to learn more about the mentorships. The first hour of the night was set up science fair style, over 50 exhibits lined the walls of SITE’s event spaces. During this time, we enjoyed music from Paige and Alfredo in the event hall and on the sky terrace we had protegee DJ Michael Hernandez! For the second half of the evening, we enjoyed performances and speeches from 10 pairs. Rudy Flores from the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Board spoke on his time in the role, there were several music performances, 2 pairs form Big Brothers Big Sisters reflected on what they had learned in their time together, and Leonardo Sanchez with the New Mexico Dreamers spoke on the impact of his peer to peer mentorship and the strength they have together.
I had several impactful takeaways, but the biggest to me was you could see how brilliant this generation is. When I think of the mentorships I would have done, I would have chosen subjects related to cosmetology, photography, digital art, etc., you can see the pattern. Exhibits related to those subjects were there, but we also had exhibits regarding Midwifery, Environmental Law, Coffee Economy – the impressive list goes on! Through his own mentorship, we were lucky enough to have Jadeyn Secura, a Youth Ambassador join us for the evening. Jadeyn took the time to interview several of our pairs – giving him a chance to further develop his own skill set.
I want to finish this post off with my favorite quotes from the evening, but first I want to extend my gratitude to our community. For our youth to grow up in a city where we celebrate them and their accomplishments, it’s invaluable. I’m proud of our students and who they are on track to become. At their age I was solely focused on learning Japanese, so I could watch anime without subtitles. These young adults are here to change the future and it absolutely will be for the better.