Imagine your dream is to be in front of a microphone, speaking to the issues you are passionate about. The day finally comes when you are given the opportunity and then . . . your voice goes silent. That is exactly what happened to Raquel J. Capellan – Community Advocate, Educator and Writer. As a high school sophomore she was a writer for The Reading Eagle Voices/Voces publication, which included a Voices program on WEEU Radio. “The first time I spoke on there, a little before halfway through the show my voice began to quiver and crack and I like literally, literally lost my voice because I was that nervous. I was that shy. I went back home and I cried. And my voice was still shaking the rest of the day and I wanted to never do that again.”
Raquel credits the support of her family, WEEU and Voices saying, “NO! You are going to continue doing this, you need to continue to lose it because we know this is your dream. We see your potential, we see how it lights up your face when you talk about it.” They lent her the strength she needed in that moment. “It took a month, maybe two, but that family and community support gave me the courage I needed to go back. Even though my voice continued to shake and quake I persisted, I persevered. I became even more resilient than ever.”
Today Raquel’s foremost focus is empowering youth, as others once empowered her. She starts with her immediate family. Once she knows she has done what she can to support them, her attention turns to her extended family – the students of Reading School District. With her passion to help them realize their possibility, Raquel dedicates hours to speaking with current RHS students and mentoring those who aspire to be the first generation of their family to attend and graduate college. A first generation college graduate herself, Raquel knows what a culture shock college can be. Today she says, “I want to be sure our first-gen students know, you are not alone.”
And then . . . Raquel’s family circle widens to include all the people in the City of Reading. Engaging community members in conversations about the personal power of their vote on a daily basis, Raquel stresses the importance of being a registered voter and of showing up to cast your vote each and every election day.
Asked to share more about those who have inspired and motivated her, Raquel immediately points to her grandmother who raised her. It was grandmother’s dream that brought the family to New York from the Dominican Republic and, when Raquel was 8, from New York to Reading. Each move, a step in their quest for a better life. It was also her grandmother’s teaching that helped Raquel to understand education as a two way street. “Education, like my grandmother always told me when raising me, education is a two-way street. You learn, they learn. They learn, you learn. Each one reach one teach one. Things like that are what I tell myself every single day.”
About our logo: designed by José Joel Delgado-Rivera, Public Relations and Marketing Consultant, the rationale behind the logo is a mix of threads forming the Pagoda, the Sun, the Trees, and the Schuylkill River.
This project is funded by a FARO grant provided by a partnership between the Wyomissing Foundation and Barrio Alegría. Produced in conjunction with BCTV.