My name is Alexandra Garza and I was a student of Ileana Jiménez’s at Elisabeth Irwin High School (LREI). Before I was a student and now friend of Ileana’s, I had only known her contagious laugh heard frequently throughout the hallways. As time passed, I saw her at school assemblies encouraging students to get involved in various panels, lectures, and discussions on race, class, and gender. For some time, I’d been interested in joining these discussions Ileana so passionately advocated. I took my curiosity into consideration when selecting courses for my junior year. I was definitely lured in by Ileana’s passion. I decided to jump into the conversation head first by signing up for Ileana’s literature course, Fierce and Fabulous: Feminist Women Writers, Artists, and Activists. Aside from the fantastic title, I had a feeling this class could change my entire life. Continue reading
“My name is Lola Lorber, I’m a freshman, and my preferred gender pronouns are she, her, and hers.”
This is how we introduce ourselves on the first few days of classes at Oberlin College. To some it may sound weird, funny, or redundant; but at Oberlin, it is the norm.
I am proud to say I believe in sex positivity and freedom of speech. I’m a vegan, and I like to laugh. I’ve recently gotten into stand-up comedy because I like being able to say things into a microphone and make myself loud and heard. I am proud to make people laugh. I am proud to be an LREI alum (Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School).
The first elective course I ever took in high school was a memoir writing class my junior year. In this class, I discovered my voice, my identity, and my love for telling stories. In the fall of 2007, we were an intimate class of ten students consisting of a mix of juniors and seniors, and one teacher, Ileana Jiménez (also known as Feminist Teacher). We met almost every day in a hidden corner of the library–and it was here where our lives were shared and merged with each other’s. My peers would read aloud their pieces to the class revealing their true selves. With assigned readings from published memoirs and writing prompts given to us by Ileana, we were all immersed on a journey of our own words. I quickly became familiar with my humorous and sincere voice and I knew that I would continue to embrace it in my future. Continue reading
After being at LREI for four years, speaking about diversity and feminism became second nature to me. The classes that I took–such as Fierce and Fabulous: Feminist Women Writers, Artists, and Activists; Queer Identities: LGBT Literature and Film; and Memoir Writing–paired with the student diversity conferences that I attended, as well as the series of speakers that we were lucky to have at my school, all made issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality prevalent in my mind. During my years at Little Red, one of my teachers, Ileana Jiménez, helped me find myself, develop my feminist identity, and be proud of who I am. I learned to do diversity work in my everyday life.
When I got accepted to Cornell University I was ecstatic. It was my first choice, and I was going to be the first in my family to go to college. I thought,“It’s a huge school, so I am sure that I can find people who share my views on diversity, since Cornell is pretty diverse.” Boy, was I wrong! During my first weeks there, I noticed how racially segregated my field of hospitality management was as well as the University as a whole. I was taken by surprise when I saw that two clubs that I was interested in were completely segregated. One was all white, and the other was made up of all students of color. Naturally, I joined both, not only because I was interested in both clubs but also because I wanted to get at the root of the problem. Continue reading