Last Cornerstone Friday: Communities in Transition
On December 5, OA students will have the honor of hosting Paul Cuadros during their final Cornerstone Friday. Cuadros, an award-winning investigative reporter who teaches journalism at UNC Chapel Hill, will lead students through activities and discussions that will help them explore the theme “Communities in Transition.” As preparation for this Friday, the students read and discussed articles related to groups that have been and still are in transition in the USA and how some of them have overcome in a positive way this transition. On Friday afternoon, OA students are organizing a program to share with students from El Centro (the Hispanic Community Center in Brevard). The program includes craft making and games.
Paul Cuadros is an outstanding mentor for our students as they wrap up their final days in community at OA and return to their home communities. As they consider the deep connections they have made during the semester and think about transitioning home, they are experiencing the mixture of emotions that accompanies the end of every great adventure. Cuadros hopes to help them draw connections between their experiences at OA and inspire them to explore how best to transfer the skills, lessons, and spirit of community they have gained here to their lives back home.
An acclaimed writer of articles in publications that include Time Magazine and Salon.com, Cuadros tells personal and heart-rending stories that vividly depict the experiences of the Latino community in the United States. In 1999 he received a fellowship and began to study rural southern communities impacted by the arrival of large numbers of immigrant laborers. His work took him to Siler City, NC to research the poultry processing industry. Latino parents poured into the economically depressed southern town and were willing to work in the grueling and dangerous plants because they were desperately seeking a better life, a healthier environment and a way to save their children from polluted, violent and drug and gang infested inner cities.
Cuadros’ own family had emigrated from Peru. He immediately understood the “outsider” feelings that he witnessed in the young Latino men. And he feared for the future of the many undocumented young people who remembered being in no other country other than the US but who lived in constant fear of deportation and could only dream of sharing the American experience.
Believing that the skills of character and strength learned in games can be applied to real life Cuadros faced many obstacles but eventually started a soccer program at Siler City High School. He then coached the Latino team to major victories. The team, Los Jets, even won state championships.
Los Jets became pivotal to the small southern town’s transition away from defeat to a greater sense of community pride and acceptance of diversity. Cuadros tells the remarkable story of struggle and triumph that grew out of this “Community in Transition” in his book, A Home on the Field: How One Championship Soccer Team Inspires Hope for the Revival of Small Town America. The book has been made into a documentary and Cuadros has spoken for his team and the community many times on NPR.
Our students are honored to learn more about often overlooked American communities and are looking forward to hearing Cuadros’ experience with Los Jets and about his work with undocumented and immigrant families and young people.
How do we gracefully transition away from community while maintaining the spirit from which we have been inspired to learn and grow?
How can we use this experience to create more connected communities across ethnic and socio-economic lines back home?
How do I transfer my lessons from this community when I have left this place and these people?
We hope that our students may find answers to these and many more questions during their time with Cuadros.
Polly Averette, French Teacher
Rodrigo Vargas, Spanish Teacher