Cor ununm week

Jenifer De Leon visits to present and lead writing workshops


Elias Feldman

Jenifer De Leon speaks on her experiences and how they are reflected in her writing. Her novels mirror her experiences in characters similar and different from herself.

Fiona Kenny, Reporter

Author Jenifer De Leon came to Convent & Stuart Hall yesterday as an aspect of our Latin-American themed Cor Unum week — and on Mar. 22, poet and novelist Luis Alberto Urrea will also share his works and experiences. 

Cor Unum week is an essential opportunity for students to encounter and promote an inclusive conversation revolving around culture and the relationship between courage and respect according to Through interactions and storytelling, students are inspired by curiosity and relativity, creating an environment where differences are recognized, and valued. 

As a component of our Cor Unum week, author and educator Jenifer De Leon gave a presentation on her experiences of being Latin-American in predominantly white settings as well as interactions with her own family. Her talk spanned from her time in school — at home with her large family, college, and her challenges and successes across all of these settings. 

“Every year we have a lot of important considerations about who we want to put before the students as a visiting author, and the theme of Latin-American heritage and experience seems very relevant and timely,” Library Academic Chair Alyson Barrett said. “Jenifer De Leon stood out to us because of her experience as an author, her personal life experience, and the fact that she was a former teacher — her visit only confirmed her passion in exposure through literature and displayed her take on powerful feminism though experience,”

De Leon began her visit by speaking on her family heritage from Guatemala, and moved on to speak on her experiences of growing up in a predominantly white education system. She spoke through her obstacles she had to overcome in order for her to succeed, as well as the culture differences she observed between school-life and her home-life. 

“We read a lot about these types of experiences in school, and discuss the experiences they are currently going through, but we rarely ever get to see how an individual makes those experiences into something else,” sophomore Annika Carpenter said. “This presentation that Jenifer De Leon gave us was a chance to see how one can use past experiences and develop them into something so artistically incredible,”

De Leon has written multiple books, from young adult novels to collective essay novels. The main plot of her works concern the life of Latin-American youth facing differences in culture and bravely overcoming obstacles people put in front of them. When reading an excerpt from one of her own novels, freshman Franchesca Lauterbach found hearing stories through a different character lens very interesting. 

“The most memorable moment of the presentation was when she read an excerpt from one of the books she wrote called White Space,” Lauterbach said. “After hearing so much about what went into these stories, actually hearing them be pursued through a different character lens was really interesting,”

A goal for Cor Unum week is to allow students to converse in a comfortable and supportive environment. These authors that visit our school instigate new and diverse topics to inspire students to reflect and voice their experiences, according to Barrett.

“Her presentation offered a great duality of statistics touching on the most important issues within the community we live in,” Barrett said. “I hope it allowed and fostered a dialogue for people to understand a more expansive view on some of the issues she talked about.”