The Voice of San Jose City College since 1956

City College Times

Adobe hosts ‘Let Your Life Speak’ event

City College highlights student voices

San+Jose+City+College+professor+Chris+Lancaster+%28far+left%29+poses+on+stage+with+%27Life+Speak%27+organizers+Shelly+Giacolone+%28second+to+right%29+and+Leslyn+McCallum+%28far+right%29%2C+as+student+speakers+took+their+final+curtain+call+before+the+audience+in+the+downtown+San+Jose+Adobe+building+Friday+April+7.
San Jose City College professor Chris Lancaster (far left) poses on stage with 'Life Speak' organizers Shelly Giacolone (second to right) and Leslyn McCallum (far right), as student speakers took their final curtain call before the audience in the downtown San Jose Adobe building Friday April 7.

San Jose City College professor Chris Lancaster (far left) poses on stage with 'Life Speak' organizers Shelly Giacolone (second to right) and Leslyn McCallum (far right), as student speakers took their final curtain call before the audience in the downtown San Jose Adobe building Friday April 7.

San Jose City College professor Chris Lancaster (far left) poses on stage with 'Life Speak' organizers Shelly Giacolone (second to right) and Leslyn McCallum (far right), as student speakers took their final curtain call before the audience in the downtown San Jose Adobe building Friday April 7.

Jordan Elliott, Times Staff

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Together, San Jose City College professors and student speaking coaches Shelley Giacalone and Leslyn McCallum organized the Let Your Life Speak event, held at the downtown San Jose Adobe building April 7.

8 students presented personal stories about their lives to an audience of peers and teachers with the intention of allowing their voices to be heard.

“There’s no faculty speeches. The students are the experts,” Giacalone said. “I’m flipping the power dynamic.”

Originally intended to be held at the SJCC campus, Giacalone got a TED X license and a small grant of 500 dollars, but TED X interrupted her plans when the speeches proved too ‘inappropriate’ due their personal nature, McCallum said.

“To be able to partner again with folks at Adobe and start to make those connections with these stories is what this is really about, as well as to practice what it’s like to tell your story,” SJCC’s president Byron Breland told the audience. “Own that story and be who you are.”

Because the plans to hold the conference on campus were canceled, Breland contacted Adobe, who agreed to fund and cater the event just 2 weeks before the presentation date of April 7, McCallum said.

“I’m always happy and so proud to collaborate with President Breland and SJCC because I got my start at community college,” Adobe Sr. director Toni Vanwinkle said.

Vanwinkle opened the stage and shared some of her own story… “from being homeless to being an executive at one of the biggest companies.”

Student MC Veronica Garcia preceded to introduce each speaker, and told the audience that “Many paths can take us to our ultimate journey, but many have some struggle,” before reminding them to stay in the present moment, for she said speeches were expected to be emotional.

“I encourage you to seek help. You will find love in the least likely places. Find your Chloe, ” Cruzsilla Gutierrez told the audience about her battles with depression through a story about her dog, Chloe.

Maria de Lourdes Cordova Diaz and Iriana Luna each spoke about their individual struggles with immigration. After moving to the U.S. personal hardships such as the death of her mother derailed Diaz’ dreams of going to Disneyland and attending school she said.

“A few months ago I made my first dream: I went to Disneyland,” Diaz said. “Then my second dream: I started going to college.”

Each student was allowed to speak on whatever topic they wanted, with both Giacalone and McCallum coaching their dialogues. SJCC student McArthur Hoang spoke about his life struggles and his journey to a college education.

“It’s hard to sacrifice for college if you don’t know what you’re going to use college for,” McArthur said.

Student Angel Coronado played a game with the audience to address the importance of communication. He chose a random member of the audience and asked, “How are you doing? – How are you really doing?” Coronado asked all of the audience to start that dialogue with each other and several minutes were spent on his activity.

“The audience reacted very positively,” Coronado said. “It’s great to see that we’re all just people.”

Yenifer Silvestre shared a story about her experiences of being a minority woman in school and the workplace: “The way I speak and the way I look doesn’t determine the way my brain works.”

“4 years ago when I came to the USA, I got my first job at a fast food restaurant. 4 years later I have come a long way: I tutor biology and physics at SJCC,” Silvestre said.

Speeches were varied as speakers Raylina Beecher told the audience a story about how motherhood helped her reach sobriety and Benish told her story of religion and why she wears a hijab.

“It takes a lot of bravery to come up here and talk to you all,” Garcia told the audience.

All student speakers, alongside Giacalone, McCallum and communications professor Chris Lancaster joined the stage together after the speeches.

“I’m very proud of the students,” Giacalone said. “I’ve always heard these stories. This is kind of a vision coming true.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Voice of San Jose City College since 1956
Adobe hosts ‘Let Your Life Speak’ event