Eleven students from seven Pennsylvania colleges will gather in Reading, Pennsylvania this holiday weekend with one goal: to hear and record personal stories of local immigrant residents. They will work Saturday to Monday to produce an entire print book that will be donated locally to college and university libraries, public libraries, and appropriate organizations and businesses. Through their stories, the interviewees will confront the negative perception attached not only to the hot-button issue of immigration, but also to themselves as immigrants. The student’s work will lead readers beyond misconceptions to offer a deeper understanding of their neighbors and coworkers.
Community leaders who will speak to the Writing Wrongs group include local immigration Attorney Abraham Cepeda of Cultura Law; Carlos Gonzalez, statewide capacity building coordinator for the Pennsylvania Immigrant & Citizenship Coalition; and John McCormack, former supervisor of the Berks County Youth Center & ICE Family Shelter Care Program.
The participating students applied and were selected for this program. They are: Jamison Barker, Shippensburg University; Kristen Cervenak, Northampton Community College; Katherine Coble, Franklin & Marshall College; Max Gondolfo, Kutztown University; Heather Jacobson, Kutztown University; Vanessa Morales, Haverford College; Carlee Nilphai, Millersville University; Jaylen Pearson, Cabrini University; Phillip Reid, Haverford College; Amanda Sergeyev, Kutztown University; and Justin Sweitzer, Kutztown University. The Writing Wrongs program gives them a unique opportunity to practice multimedia journalism outside of the classroom while simultaneously performing community service by raising awareness about specific issues in their communities.
“[The students’] education suffers greatly when they have so much more to be concerned about before the curriculum,” said Staff Writer Heather Jacobson, a teacher currently pursuing a Master of Education at Kutztown University.
“They wonder about their family staying together, about their family members’ health, where and how they will get their next meal — all this and more even before arriving at school each day,” Jacobson said. “Compassion toward immigrants is imperative. When we fail immigrants, we fail their children; when we fail children, we fail our communities.”
In September 2015, the inaugural group of student journalists addressed the issue of homelessness at the Opportunity House in Reading, Pennsylvania. Their print edition can be read at issuu.com/newdawnenterprises/docs/writingwrongsfall2015
Last year, seven students representing six different colleges visited Easy Does It, Inc. drug and alcohol treatment facility in Leesport, Pennsylvania. They compiled the residents’ stories in a book, “Addiction: Stories of Hope,” available on Amazon.com and other world-wide booksellers. Proceeds from sales are used to fund future Writing Wrongs programs.
For more information about the program and to read some of the students’ work, visit Writing Wrongs’ website at https://seektruthandreportit.com. Anyone who donates $10 or more to Writing Wrongs before September 15 will receive a copy of the 2017 book.