Ariadne Barrera, Latina
My parents are from Jesus Maria, Aguascalientes, and I was born in Worthington, Minnesota.
My dad chose Worthington because my grandpa came here to work at the meatpacking plant. My mom also arrived here with a friend she met in a southern state because of JBS.
I think people see me as a quiet person, but I also like to be outgoing. I guess I'm someone that's in between being introverted and extroverted. I enjoy being around people and knowing their stories, and knowing what makes them them. Everything that I do, I dedicate my time to it and give it my all. People make comments that once I talk about something, I talk with so much passion or if I do something, they can see how passionate I am because I give it my all.
Growing up in Worthington has influenced me. I look at the other towns around us and how different they are from our community. If I did not grow up in Worthington, I'm unsure I would have been exposed to the same things. When I visit Mexico and talk with my cousins, they have no clue what I mean when I mention sticky rice or pupusas.
When I was younger, I didn't notice many people like me, like people of color. It was kind of hard to bond with people that didn't share the same experiences that I was experiencing at home. But once I got older, I did notice more people of color coming in and speaking in Spanish at school and home. As I grew older, the school environment was better because there was more inclusion of other people and it evolved their knowledge about what they knew and what I knew, like they could merge and become something better.
I've always enjoyed school. Worthington is small, and so often, we as students want to go to more significant places and dream of being in the city. There's nothing to do around here. That is only of the downsides of growing up here -- we were always bored because there isn't recreational stuff. I feel like more people would connect, like during the wintertime, for example, there's not much to do instead of going out with your friends and talking to each other. That's all you do in your free time. It's not like you're going out to play at the park or anything, you're sitting with one another during lunch.
One of the things I got involved with during high school is the Innovators Program through the Women's Foundation of Minnesota. I didn't know it was there at first. When I applied, I was also a part of FCCLA at the high school. With FCCLA, I did a small project around welcoming newcomers. It piqued my interest because I saw it as making change within a community, my community, and my town that would benefit from it. I saw it as a potential for my project and Worthington to be able to use with new immigrants. With the Innovators program, I developed a project with the school's afterschool program for ELL students. I see their potential, and if you sit and have a conversation with them about their stories, who they are, what their goals are and what aspirations they have, it shows you that they also want what every other person would wish to.
Just because they don't speak the language doesn't mean that they're less of a person. I feel like what I did is important because it provided them with a safe space, a place where they can let their creativity out. It also gives them resources that they could use to better their future and build to have more of a structure to have their dreams become a reality.
I think they must have that space for them since it's provided for them. It's a place where you're comfortable and uncomfortable because you're learning new things. And you kind of, I guess, trusting some to help achieve your goals through this process. Well, I have learned not to take things for granted, I think, because, for example, there is snow right now. I often hear people complaining about the snow we get. The other day I found one of the students playing in the snow, and they were so happy. They played like a little kid seeing snow for the first time, like when they stick their tongues and throw snowballs. Seeing that made me realize the joys that I have that other people don't experience. I guess the main thing that I've learned is to appreciate everything you experience and what you have, even if it's good or bad because it has shaped you into the person you are. And without those experiences, you wouldn't be where you are.
My plan after high school is to become a teacher. I plan on becoming a teacher in ESL. So teaching English as a second language and getting my bachelor's and then hopefully mastering English and teaching. I think education is critical, and it's something that should never die out because either way you look at it, you're always being educated. So I like that, I guess, the dream of becoming a teacher. Then I'll be an excellent resource and help future students. Potentially, I hope to come back here and then not only here, but also expand in other cities and help their towns, like small towns too, that need that service, but I do plan to come back.
Future of Worthington:
When I come back, I hope that there are more businesses for different things. I hope some people are starting their businesses. I know that many people in the community aspire to open their businesses. So I hope that they or their children have opened what companies they would like. I also hope that there's more people and then that the town has grown more because the city, as I said before, does have potential. So I feel like it can grow into a bigger city, and it won't be; like a negative city. It would be positive because I know we have a good structure in our community that leads to better things. I want to see younger kids also step up and take charge and create new projects.