After viewing the Youth Cast this past Wednesday and seeing individuals from various locations, and seeing the role of being an American, so much comes to view as a former advisor of a literary art publication in Mexico City, titled Repentino..  While the students were a mix of those from Mexico, the U.S., Korea, China, Brazil, Japan, and other countries in Latin American and abroad, when we travelled to the Columbia Scholastic Press Association (CSPA) in New York, I took for granted how individuals from other countries would see CSPA.  I always has attended CSPA as a yearbook advisor from a school in Delaware previously, then I moved to Mexico.

For the first time in 2012, I was attending CSPA as an international advisor and it was so different!   Many students in the workshops thought out students were from NEW MEXICO, not the country of Mexico!  It was a hard adjustment for our students used to seeing so many students from other countries and seeing the adjustment they were making in just one week to what it was like to be surrounded by American views, and not many international approaches and views.  it became an adjustment to see how an international student might view America through a different lens, and how my role changed as a representative for students from so many backgrounds, and how to get our voice as an international entity out and represented.  It took me five years to get good at it, and realize the biases I had and thought as an American and to realize the truths and half truths about other countries from living out of that country and not living in that same country I have formerly lived out of and now was IN!

How do we get that across as a magazine?  Over time we did by reaching out to students via their submissions and combining with our own like views of themes and ideas.  But the more important question – how do we continue to live our lives, outside of the news, and take in the views someone from another country has about what being American is, and what being someone outside America is, without being represented as that voice from larger entities like Congressmen and women, Presidents, candidates, etc that do not necessarily represent ALL Americans in America?  I know when I made the decision to move to Mexico, I received concerns of GANGS!   SHOOTINGS!  DRUGS!   EARTHQUAKES!   STORMS!   DANGER!   I moved from the United States and the irony was hysterical.  Record shootings and kidnappings were occurring in towns near to where I lived and far, a hurricane touched down in a place (AS WELL AS AN EARTHQUAKE!) that never usually occur, and I thought, “I am safer in a country that many thought was unsafe!”

The same thought process occurs when we assume to know another country, which is 1000% different than getting to know the individuals and know the country by LIVING in that country.  But we can do the next best thing.  Be true Americans by showing we care and reach out to know more about each other, by being proactive and not passive in accepting what news shows, political figures, and the general population has to tell us about others, let’s find out for ourselves.  That has been the gift of Youth Voices and the events I saw in this past Wednesday’s Youthcast.  We have the opportunities, whether we take them or not, to define how  and what being American, Korean, Chinese, South American, Mexican, Japanese, Chilean, African, Native American, Indian, on and on and on actually IS, MEANS, and COULD MEAN, AND we can be ONE collaborative group if we choose.  If we choose.

CC BY-SA 4.0 The Role of Being an American (If We Choose) by Repentino. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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