Let Your Life Speak



Faculty and students pose at the end of the Let Your Life Speak event in downtown San Jose’s Adobe headquarters. From left, top to bottom: Chris Lancaster, Leslyn McCallum, Lilia Huang, Angel Coronado, Steven Sciplin, Ivan Perez, Rachel Davis, Shelley Giacalone, Kris Menge, Sabrina Maciel, Galy Jimenez and Thomas Guiterrez on March 23, 2018.

Nicholas Johnson, Times Staff

The SJCC Communication Studies Department in association with Adobe held the “Let Your Life Speak” event at the Adobe headquarters in downtown San Jose March 23.

Organized by SJCC professors and speech coaches Shelley Giacalone, Chris Lancaster, and Leslyn McCallum, the “Let Your Life Speak” event sees a group of students sharing stories about their life experiences in their own unique ways.

Seven SJCC students spoke on topics ranging from issues dealing with depression and anxiety, to adversity faced by immigrants.

After a brief introduction by Toni Vanwinkle of Adobe and Blake Balajadia director of Student Life at SJCC, the context for each speaker was introduced by Lilia Huang, the master of ceremonies for the event.

The first to speak was Kris Menge, who shared his experiences with PTSD and alcoholism after being discharged from the army. His main point was that mental health issues are often hard to detect from an outside perspective, and that a support system is important for anyone dealing with trauma.

Next was Steven Sciplin, a football player who, despite being on the autistic spectrum, overcame his struggles with communication to use his heightened sense of focus to train harder on and off the field. Comparing himself to the DC Comics hero Cyborg, and said he feels like a machine in many ways, but often in a good way.

Sabrina Maciel’s speech, titled “Revising the Struggle,” was about her experience when first attending college. One of the first in her family to attend higher education, the pressure she felt left her mental condition in a slow decline, eventually being diagnosed with depression and anxiety. Despite this, she managed to be accepted to her dream school after attending SJCC in an attempt to restructure her life.

The first of the truly unique presentations was that of Galy Jimenez, who presented a couple of powerful poems dealing with the struggles of immigrants from Mexico, illegal or otherwise.

After a brief intermission, Thomas Guiterrez presented his speech titled “Shaken Free.” Aided by the visual metaphor of an Etch-a-Sketch toy, his speech about the trouble he got into with his brother when he was younger was presented alongside a dynamic drawing up on the screen, filling in details and changing figures as the speech went along, from a man being surrounded by police officers, to a champion boxer surrounded by cheering fans.

The penultimate speech, presented by Rachel Davis, was about her family dealing with the devastating suicide of her mother, and the struggle of suddenly losing such an important part of her life. The story ends with a touching gesture from her brothers, purchasing a bench in her memory on the pier in San Francisco, where she met her end.

The final speech was by Ivan Perez, titled “The Chicano Equation.” He talked about his identity as someone of Mexican descent, and how discovering Chicano studies was a pivotal moment in his life that allowed him to discover other passions.

After the final speech, Lilia Huang came out for one final symbolic gesture, gathering all the speakers on stage and passing around fake candles to the crowd. The lights dimmed and the candles were switched on, creating a poignant moment to cap off the night of powerful talks.

The night ended with an informal Q&A, as members of the audience mingled and asked any questions they might have to the speakers.