San Diego Photographer Helps Bridge Culture Gap for Minority Students

A local private school helps bridge the cultural gap for first-generation Mexican American students. Francis Parker School in Linda Vista has 1,300 mostly white students, which can be a challenge for non-white children.

The school created a program called SPEAK, which stands for Shaping Peer Empowerment Advocating Knowledge.

SPEAK helps minority students and their Spanish-speaking parents navigate the academic, cultural, and financial opportunities available to them. A group of Parker High School students took a field trip Friday to the Centro Cultural de La Raza in Balboa Park, where they viewed an exhibit called “Beyond Trasfronterizo Lens.”

The exhibition features the work of Carlos Solorio, a professional photographer born in Tijuana and later naturalized as an American citizen. “Cross-border is like cross-border. It means someone who naturally navigates both sides of the border,” Solorio said.

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One of Solorio’s photographs is titled “Migrante X” and shows a lone man crossing the United States on a deserted road. The photo hit close to home for Marco Garcia Gonzalez, who is a junior at Parker School.

“The image of the migrant where there was this man in the background with the desert overhanging him. It just made me think of how my parents came to America,” he said, “they could have seen that or been in that picture, you know?

MG Perez

“Migrante X” is a photograph from the “Beyond Transfronterizo Lens” exhibit at Centro Cultural De La Raza in Balboa Park, San Diego, California on April 8, 2022. The photo shows a lone man on a desert road, with a Joshua tree in the foreground.

The cultural divide can go both ways when a student is caught between the difference between American life and their Mexican family.

“Reconnecting with my family is a bit tricky,” Jose Estrada Hernandez told KPBS News. Jose is in tenth grade and was born and raised in San Diego, but has many family members in Tijuana. “There are times that I don’t really understand what they’re saying or that I don’t understand the traditions,” he said.

Connecting students with successful members of their communities is an important part of the SPEAK program’s outreach. Jasmin Taylor is a University Counselor at the Parker School. She said: “There are similarities between these mentors so our students can see other stories and other stories of people doing amazing things.”

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Solorio hopes the field trip to his photography exhibit will inspire first-generation minority students in the United States

“We are living the wildest dreams of our ancestors through education. We have to pass the torch to the next generation and then it is up to them to be the decision makers or the leaders of our people,” he said.

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