Newspaper Coverage of Living Out Loud

The Lexington Herald-Leader wrote an article about Living Out Loud, featuring one of the students at a local teen reading. I was interviewed a few days before, and it seems that the reporter focused on the “feel good” angle for the report. The hope is that this will generate exposure, and potentially buyers for the libro. The full report is here below:


The words, by Ana Contreras, are from Living Out Loud: Our Stories, Our Struggles, a new book written by Latino students at Lexington’s Paul Laurence Dunbar High School. The writers describe what it’s like growing up and attending school in a sometimes alien — and not always welcoming — country.

All proceeds from sales of the book will be used for scholarships for Latino students at Dunbar, where about 14 percent of the student population is Latino. The book retails for $9.99 and is available on It will also be available soon at The Morris Book Shop in Lexington.

The idea for the book came from members of Latino Outreach Leaders, an organization at Dunbar created by Latino students.

The book’s publication marks a big moment for the students, said Maria Ortiz, 18, a founder and former president of Latino Outreach Leaders who graduated from Dunbar last month. She read selections from the book Thursday night at Teen Howl, a once-a-month reading of poetry by middle and high schoolers at The Morris Book Shop.

“I really hope it inspires Latino kids and shows them that they can succeed,” Ortiz said. “Many times, they don’t have a support system. Our club’s basic goal is to get Latino students excited about school and feeling empowered. We don’t want to see them drop out.”

The story of the book, and the club that created it, goes back four years, when Dunbar social studies teacher Sharessa Crovo noticed that some of the Latino students in her ninth-grade social studies class weren’t trying.

They were bright kids, capable of mastering classroom work. But they were shutting down.

Crovo started asking them why.

They replied, “Why bother?”

Crovo was surprised to learn that many of the students were not born in the United States and were undocumented, which effectively locked them out of consideration for scholarships and most college financial-aid programs, which typically require proof of citizenship. The discouraged students saw no hope for college and little reason to study.

“They were telling me these stories, and I’d never heard anything like it,” Crovo said. “Many of the kids had come here when they were only 2 or 3 years old. But because they were undocumented they were kind of living in the shadows.

“They said things like, ‘What’s the point?’ They said, ‘I can’t do anything, even if I graduate.’ Others said they didn’t feel like they belonged; that they didn’t feel like they fit in; that they didn’t feel like anybody cared.”

Crovo, who’d recently moved to Lexington from South Carolina, knew little about immigration issues. But she knew she had to help the students.

So she offered them a deal: if they would study harder, she’d help them find sources of money for college.

Some of the students were reluctant at first; others said “maybe.”

But slowly things began to happen. More Dunbar teachers helped. Monthly meetings were held to assist Latino students with problems. Evening sessions were organized at the Lexington Public Library’s Village Branch to help Latino parents assist their children.

Jim Adams, coordinator of Dunbar’s Student Technology Leadership Program, offered to establish a technology program for Latino students. The kids, however, had a different idea. They launched a club of their own, Latino Outreach Leaders.

Meanwhile, Erin Howard, Latino outreach director at Bluegrass Community and Technical College, helped the growing Dunbar effort. Students like Ortiz started attending BCTC’s annual summer Latino Leadership and College Experience Camp, taking what they learned back to their classmates.

Crovo spent every spare moment reading and searching online for college information and assistance programs that did not require proof of citizenship, passing the information on to the Latino students.

When the Obama administration launched its Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program in August, Dunbar held a fair at which students could get details and assistance in applying for the program. DACA doesn’t guarantee citizenship, but it allows undocumented youngsters to remain in the United States legally to attend school or work.

Later, when the Latino students at Dunbar came up with the idea of writing a book about their experiences, Stephen Alvarez, an assistant professor of English at the University of Kentucky, stepped up to do the editing.

“Dr. Alvarez had just arrived at UK, so all of the pieces kind of fell together,” Howard said. “Some other schools in the area have clubs for international students. But the Dunbar program is really the first that focused on providing a space and a voice for Latino students to encourage each other and plan for college. It’s unique because it really started from the students.”

The effort is important, Howard says, because immigrant youngsters — documented or not — often struggle when they’re the first generation to move into a new community.

“They’re learning a new language; they’re trying to understand new cultural norms,” she said. “They wonder, ‘Where do I fit in? Where do I belong? No one is talking to me about having high expectations for my education or myself.'”

Ortiz knows what that’s like. She was brought to the United States, undocumented, when she was 3. She has no real memories of life in Mexico.

When she was a sophomore at Dunbar, Ortiz decided to tell other students in her advanced placement world history class that she was undocumented.

“It was really, really tough,” she said. “But I thought that if I told people my story and made them understand what immigrants are really like, they would see things differently.”

Ortiz, who has been accepted into the DACA program, recently took the big step of getting her learner’s permit to drive, something she couldn’t do previously because she lacked proof of citizenship. She’s also considering several colleges, including UK and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She loves art.

Ortiz thinks her future looks bright, thanks in large part to the program for Latino students at Dunbar.

“I love my culture,” she said, “but I definitely consider America my home.”

Meanwhile, Crovo still gets a little misty-eyed remembering last month’s Dunbar graduation, when she saw many of those Latino kids who were shutting down four years ago cross the stage to receive diplomas.

“These are innocent kids who are kind of caught in the middle,” she said. “All they want is to get an education, go get a job and build a life like other people.”

“I struggled a lot in this country … Now this is my home. I know nothing of Mexico … I’m Kentucky. I’ve been here for nearly my whole life.”


The “news” of the article, however, becomes the public’s responses, which I post here below, and which I will come back to later in order to analyze some of the arguments surrounding the discourse:


  • kymom2

    What is wrong with educating people who want to do something positive with their lives?  Being a minority does not give you a leg up in college when you cannot pay for it.  Not sure if you realize this but if you don’t have a social you’re not eligible for federal aide, student loans or state funds.  They have to pay for everything out of pocket or cannot go.

  • Yong Guan

    I am glad that you are here.  This is your country and you belong here.  I look forward to reading your book.

  • offwithishead

    Funny……white people complaining.

  • tafugate

    please go home and learn about your country of origin.  that’s where your family is, other than the criminals that brought you here illegally.  you’re not wanted here.  the intelligent, prudent option would be to…go home.  you’ll make new friends.

  • Sundance

    Is it Hispanics in general or just the illegals that are not wanted here by you?

    I just wonder how many of these kids brought here illegally when they are infants or toddlers have the necessary “legal” paperwork that is required for them to re-enter their “country of origin”.

    In other words, maybe it is prudent to return, but the question is how they get back in and prove citizenship of that country?

    If say, Ellie Mae was taken to Russia illegally when she was 2 and grew up there, only spoke Russian and then having reached maturity wanted to return to Pikeville but had no documentation.  What would be the process so that she could come back and make new friends?  How does she prove she is Ellie Mae, that she was born here, that she is a citizen here?

  • tafugate

    nothing against hispanics at all.  nothing at all against, and hopeful all legal immigrants from everywhere, find the united states as wonderful as the rest of us.  i wish them the best of luck in all their endeavors.

    you pose an interesting dilemma.  i suppose someone that claims they have no parents, they somehow ‘woke up’ one day and they were living a lie in a country they don’t belong, there’s not a lot you can do.  in that case, i suppose some kind of perpetual visitor status could be arranged.  but in no way should citizenship be bestowed on someone who’s not american (and that’s excluding central and south american).

    i have no doubt other countries don’t want these criminals back any more than we want them here.  but if you have a country sending criminals illegally to the united states, that’s an act of war.  i don’t think we’d have to launch on mexico city, but i’m sure there exists enough economic sanctions we could work something out.  once they’re back where they belong, that country can treat the criminals as they please.

  • Sundance

    No, I never said that Ellie Mae had no parents.  I said, just as these kids she was taken to Russia after birth, that implies she was taken there by her parents.

    Are you suggesting that simply on the word of the parents, who may or may not even be able to identify as American citizens she should be let back in?  No, your saying Ellie Mae is not a citizen and should not be given citizenship.

    How can we place political sanctions on a country to accept individuals they nor the individuals themselves can prove are citizens of their country?

    And so what happens to these individuals, you don’t want them here, they don’t want them there, what should be done with them then?

    What happens to Ellie Mae, she’s born a US citizen yet you refuse her citizenship for lack of proof, as would I?  Is it Russia’s problem then for what to do with her?


  • tafugate

    i don’t buy the crapola if a child is born in the united states, they’re automatically u.s. citizens.  they’re citizens of whatever country their parents hold citizenship.

    and if a criminal child doesn’t have the documentation to go back where they belong, and the country where they hold true citizenship won’t take them back, and we can’t prove where they belong, then as i said, they can remain here in a permanent state of visitor status.  that means no government assistance of any type.  they can attend private schools if they can afford it.  or the school wishes to extend them a grant.  no medicaid/medicare/social security.  if that’s not satisfactory to parents, they shouldn’t have brought them here illegally.  life’s tough all over.

    i’m really liking immigration reform.  it’s not nearly as difficult as politicians make it out to be.

  • Sundance

    That’s a pretty narrow view of a complicated problem.

    “…a criminal child…” now that’s one I’ve never heard before.  So, if I go to rob a convenience store and take my 6 month old along with me, he’s a criminal?

    I’m not always very compassionate but I think in most all these cases the children are victims, not criminals.

    And your idea of a perpetual visitor is really just, how can I best put this, government sponsored shadow society.  Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, your solution is to collect their names and give them some government number to keep track of them.  Let them work and pay taxes but don’t allow them any benefits, or perhaps you don’t even want them to work?  Anyway, if they pay taxes of any kind whatever services those taxes were targeted for should be available to those who paid for them, legal or illegal.

    My idea of immigration reform is find a path to citizenship for all those, both children and adults who have committed no other crimes other than entering illegally.  Place sever and permanent punishments on businesses that hire illegals.  Mandatory prison sentences for Owners, CEO’s and managers of businesses who hire illegals (ignorance of activity is no excuse).  Forfeiture of all assets associated with businesses hiring illegals, including all assets of corporations like Purdue Farms.

    The problem of illegals disappears when you take away the economic incentives for everyone involved.

    From a very narrow perspective, your not legal so leave, you can’t stay here immigration reform is very easy.  A viable solution is not so easy, not because of any political or special interest interference but simply the complexity of the problem.

    These kids in the article are trying to explain their experience, your not hearing any of it, your not open to understanding others.

  • tafugateCollapse

    i generally read your comments with great interest.  you’re usually very logical.  but i’ll end this thread with this thought…if my parents robbed a convenience store when i was 6 months old, once i was old enough to understand what they did was wrong, i would give them the chance to turn themselves in and/or make restitution.

    same for children of criminals entering or staying in the united states illegally.  once they’re old enough to understand what their parents did was wrong, it’s up to them to make restitution.  playing victim, i didn’t know, not being able to understand they’re criminals, isn’t an excuse.  they have the opportunity to do what’s right.  how they respond speaks volumes to their true character.

    edit: sorry, i didn’t read your comment beyond the first couple of sentences. it was uncharacteristically pointless drivel. looking forward to future conversations.

    • Sundance

      I’m sorry you feel that way.  I took great care in trying to make a coherent and logical argument.

      I’m a little surprised by your view on this subject, which hints to me that your not being all that honest about why you feel the way you do.  I’m sure that’s personal to you though.

      I’ll rightfully assume that all those men who escaped the draft by leaving the country should never have been pardoned and allowed to resume their lives.

      It’s hard to argue about the law, it is what it is and it isn’t anything different than what it is.  All those who failed to go through the proper immigration process and entered the country illegally have committed that crime.  And in the laziest interpretation of those laws should be arrested and deported to where they came from.

      I can’t imagine but a very small minority of us that never break a law of some sort or another.  If we fail to admit that I think that says more about our character than the breaking of any such law would say.  That is to say, I would be careful throwing stones in a glass house.  Or as Jesus liked to say, he without sin cast the first stone.

    • katie1986

      Well being hispanic/latino will give them a foot up on college and employment competition.  UK, UL, Cincy all love getting their quota of hispanic/latino and will offer free “rides” for many if they attend their school. My great grandmother is from Chile, maybe I should jump on that bandwagon.

    • Sundance

      I’m game, prove it, that they’ll have a foot up.

      Quota, there is a quota, what quota, do you have a list of the quota’s required by these schools and who requires them?

    • tafugate

      oh, c’mon, sundance.  don’t play stupid.  i know you know better.  of course it’s politically correct nowadays every educational institution has quotas to attract disadvantaged, foreign, downtrodden, whatever the let’s stick it to the taxpayer reason du jour.  educational institutions have x number of seats for students, when they give those seats to people who shouldn’t be here in the first place, who loses?

      same for some companies i’ve been involved with recently.  they actively recruit foreign, less educated help, for the specific purpose of not having to pay equivalent salaries.  i realize everyone has the right to make a buck, but a lot of illegal immigration is a direct result of the new, widely accepted, system of slave labor.

    • hailiebug

      It is unfortunate that these kids are caught in the middle of a complicated issue. However, they were brought here illegally and should not be eligible for assistance meant for citizens. I would prefer to help them though and crack down on those that are abusing and gaming the system.