Niles West to Host ¡Viva! Coming Together


The IRC will be hosting students and staff March 24, 2016 during all periods to be teaching about the Latino culture. They will be interacting with other classes, breaking stereotypes on Latinos, educating them on what it means to be a Latino/Latina, and asking questions. The Latino students and staff that are speaking and heading these discussions today are doing so on behalf of this years Skokie Coming Together ¡Viva!

Presenters will first start with a 16 minute video that hits the core of this year’s Coming Together theme ¡Viva! with interviews from Niles West graduate, a peak into the life of a Niles North security guard, etc. The short film explores Latino culture and identity and how it fits into America nationally, and how it fits here locally. After, the discussion will start. Ice breakers like “Do you sometimes feel you are balancing two different cultures, values, expectations, and rules?” will be brought up and further discussed. Latino students from West will speak about their culture but especially on the stereotypes they’re met with daily.

“I’m from Colombia and I lived in Spain and in this high school there is not a lot of people from both. Even though I am Latino, it’s not the same as those here. I wanted to talk about that; how sometimes people think that because you’re Hispanic, you’re Mexican, or ‘do you know all Mexican culture?’ It sometimes pisses me off,” junior speaker Sebastián Villegas said.

Physical Welfare director Joaqin Stephenson asked Villegas personally if he wanted to be a speaker. Another junior, Raquel Avila will also be one of the students leading these discussions today. Her counselor, Andrew  Johnson, approached her with this opportunity.

“I wanted to because this is an opportunity to speak for our Latino community. It actually mean a lot to me. Some Latinos are or have been waiting for this opportunity to speak up and finally say something addressing these stereotypes and racism,” Avila said.

Skokie’s Coming Together has highlighted different culture’s every year like Korean, Assyrian, Greek, and last year’s Voices of Race theme. Since early 2016 the program has been hosting events all around the community. Two weeks ago the program teamed up with 90 Mile Cuban Cafe in Lincolnwood for a Viva Salsa Night, which was open to everyone and had instructors to teach salsa. Events that aim to educate others on Latino culture will continue until May.

“There’s a hierarchy when it comes to how people engage with other cultures. There’s tolerance, which is the lowest form. Integrate, so you’re integrating into that other culture, so you’re knowledgable about it, you’re reading about it, you’re asking questions. But the Celebrate is completely different. Like I celebrate who you are. I want to know more, and i want to get into it in some way, because I’m excited about it,” Stephenson said.