High-school students and teachers in Las Vegas comment on Sam’s appearances at their schools as part of the Just Voices program, which every year brings in an author to speak to kids about writing, storytelling, and the authors’ lives.
Sam taught his Tell Your True Tale workshops to 20+ kids, and then for one week in May spoke to 1500 kids at seven Las Vegas area high schools.
Antonio: “I respect that fact that he went to look for people that actually have stories and experiences in poor places…. His stories were inspiring….”
Marisol: “Meeting him was really a good experience because he was really nice and open. The things he went through were crazy and it’s really cool how he gets to interview people to get his stories.”
Alptamise: “I have found a new favorite author in him.”
Jasmine: “When you hear everything out of the author’s mouth and he’s right in front of you, it’s way better. It no longer sounds like a story.”
Catherine: “This showed me that there are people that do care not just about famous people but rather about the lower society and their struggles.”
Samii: “His stories help you look into a culture that is not your own.”
AyeJay: “I like how he was real with us…. Next year’s sophomores should do this so they can see they aren’t the only ones struggling in the world.”
Mason: “I actually liked it because I’ve never actually read a story and met the author. I found out a lot of interesting things about him and journalism.”
Atzimba: “The stories were amazingly interesting, very exciting. You actually feel anxious going to school the next day just to know what happens next. I feel like having to meet with the actual journalist was even more exciting….”
Robert: “If he could have stayed here for a week, I don’t think our class would be out of questions for him.”
● “Sam Quinones is the best author I had the pleasure of introducing to my students. His experiences and stories affected my students more than I anticipated. With the high number of Hispanic students in my classes, they were able to absorb his stories and relate “from a place of knowing.” I did bring in some background information, but it was more historic information about the country.
“ My students, in their reflective writing, repeatedly stated how comfortable they were with Sam and how they felt he was talking right to them individually. They really related to both his stories and to him as a person. It was very exciting and satisfying to witness it and be a part of it.”
● “They loved his work. His stories were not what students were used to getting in school, and I think that his work definitely opened their eyes to the possibilities of writing nonfiction. Professionally, I was able to integrate nonfiction text into my curriculum that definitely engaged the students.
● “This group of students appreciated the fact that they were able to meet someone who cares about the voice of young people. We studied stories from Sam’s website and they vocalized their support of someone who was willing to give inexperienced writers a chance to tell their tale. I know that a majority of students enjoyed this experience as evidenced by their writing.
● “I have examples of student writing in which students who routinely put in minimum effort all year long, “opened up” during this unit and wrote very personal stories after following the lead of the stories we read together.”
● “Sam Quinones had a huge impact on all of us. I enjoyed his stories and his presentations to the students as much as they did. Sam was relaxed, comfortable and engaging. His presentations to our school were on a Friday, so I did not get a chance to discuss, review and bring closure with my students until the following Monday. Even after the weekend, when some seem to forget “everything”, most of my students were still excited and full of comments for great discussions. For some of my students, this was the first author they had been introduced to in person and it really opened their eyes to the world of writers–from a very different, very positive perspective.”
● “My kids loved it. They hate writing, but we did a lot of personal writing narrative/poetry writing with the unit, which helped them realize that they do have something to say. They turned in more work for this unit than they had for any other unit. Plus, since the unit dealt with immigration (something that impacts them all in one way or another), they all had something to add.”
● “We are getting golden arguments and other writings from our students due to this program and the subject matter of Sam’s journalism and story-collecting from young writers (“Tell Your True Tale”). Sam’s pieces were a gateway to introducing social issues and consciousness-raising to freshmen who have not had a proper social studies or ethics/philosophy course.”
● “I think his writing and our studies truly gave a voice to my Latino students. They communicated on a level (through writing and discussion) that was exciting and comfortable to them. I think other students appreciated the honesty of the stories and did enjoy learning about a new culture and connecting it to their own experiences.”
● “The following day, after the visit, my students and I spoke at length about what research means to the researcher. Quinones spoke at length about how essential it is that a writer’s interest is piqued by an oddity or something out of the ordinary and from that moment on, it becomes a journey of research and asking questions with the purpose of getting to more questions.
● “The students’ writing responses showed an evolution of thought as we began to dig deeper into the real-life stories of the Mexican people. Beyond just their writing though, the classroom discussion became more alive and I found the students were more inclined to pull information from all facets of their lives to apply it to our classroom discussions.”
● “For one, I was made an Honorary Latina, which shows how it helped strengthen my rapport with my students. I also have some students who had essentially checked out of English. They are credit deficient and repeating and had essentially given up. Right now, several of those students are passing with B’s and C’s, a major improvement over the F’s they had.
● “Also, because some loved to read aloud due to the Spanish, their experiences reading built up their confidence, and they still volunteer regularly even though we’re now on Fahrenheit 451. I have a new appreciation for not only the experience of the immigrant but also a new understanding of life in Mexico and how immigration to the US has impacted Mexico. Although many of my students are immigrants or children of immigrants, I think that they have a new appreciation for this, too.”
● “His visit was awesome. The students were engage and wanted to ask questions and wanted to have a discussion with him. They enjoyed that he could discuss both sides of immigration and not show a bias. This impressed them. They liked his stories and wished his visit would have been longer.”
● “From our discussion, we, as a class, concluded that when teachers assign research topics to students, there is little buy-in, but when students are trusted to find their own topic, the results are much different.”
● “His honesty and down- to- earth nature really resonated with me. The fact that he told his personal history, his experiences in Mexico as a freelance writer, and so forth, was simply refreshing and entertaining. Students commented on his laid-back demeanor as well. They were really excited by the stories he told because the stories caught their attention. They really liked his message too- to blaze your own trail. Also, to write not only about what you know, but about what you have the ability/opportunity to learn about. It was great to hear a writer who is uninterested in pop-celebrity culture, especially coming from LA.”