Javier Zamora Visits Local Schools

Javier Zamora Visits Local Schools

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Javier Zamora, author of the award-winning memoir Solito and a 2023 Sun Valley Writers’ Conference alum, visited the Wood River Middle School (WRMS) and Wood River High School (WRHS) on May 23. He was a featured speaker and guest of honor at several events organized jointly by the Sun Valley Writers’ Conference (SVWC) and The Community Library. “We were thrilled to partner with the library to bring Javier back to the valley,” says Carrie Lightner, SVWC’s Associate Director of Operations. “He was really excited to connect with local Spanish-speaking students during his time as the Hemingway Writer-in-Residence. And through SVWC donor funding, we were able to donate a copy of Javier’s book to each student and classroom.”

 

At an assembly in Spanish in the WRMS gymnasium, Zamora spoke to newcomer and dual immersion students from Wood River Middle School, Hemingway STEAM School, and Alturas Elementary School. “Newcomers” are K-12 students born outside the United States who have arrived in the country in the last three years and are still learning English.

 

Even with the bleachers packed, the discussion was intimate and personal, as Zamora answered questions moderated by a panel of eighth graders. The students asked him to describe some of the things he experienced on his solo journey from El Salvador at the age of nine. When asked what was one of the most difficult experiences Zamora had as an immigrant, he shared that he had to face some of his greatest fears on the trip—including being on a boat, at night, and not knowing how to swim. The students were also interested in learning his favorite sport and team. The crowd cheered when he shared that he is a Real Madrid fan.

 

 

After the assembly, Zamora met in the WRMS library with a smaller group of newcomer students; they asked more questions and shared their poetry with him. Later, he headed to Wood River High School to have an informal discussion and lunch with a group of 35 newcomer students there. They eagerly stood in line to talk with him one-on-one and get their books signed.

 

Devan Hoehn, the English Language Development (ELD) Specialist at the WRHS Newcomer Center, shares, “Our students thoroughly enjoyed reading Solito. Many found a deep personal connection with Javier’s story and couldn’t put the book down. For the first time in my career, I found myself saying, ‘Stop reading and listen.’ It’s crucial for students to see themselves reflected in book characters, and Javier’s story provided that opportunity. The chance to share their own stories with him and engage with someone who understands their backgrounds and experiences was so meaningful to them.”

 

 

The Sun Valley Writers’ Conference has recently expanded its community outreach initiatives in the Wood River Valley. The goal of this donor-funded Blaine County schools outreach programming is to share the experience, inspiration, and learning of SVWC with the broader local community, especially in the schools, within the context of the classrooms and the timing of a regular school calendar. The initiatives are aimed at inspiring young people and educators to discover literature and share it with others, weaving that knowledge and those interactions and experiences into their daily lives.

 

“Thanks to generous support from our donors, we have been able to increase the scope and reach of our community engagement efforts, especially in the Blaine County schools for students and teachers,” shares Lightner. “Having all of these initiatives under one umbrella allows those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend our event in July to take advantage of and find themselves enriched by the content and opportunities that SVWC provides in a deep and meaningful way.”

 

 

Other elements of the expanded Blaine County schools outreach program include a private author luncheon in July for high school students and the donation of books for spring/summer reading. This year’s featured author for that event will be Alejandra Campoverdi and her memoir FIRST GEN. In addition, SVWC has expanded their Community Scholars Program, wherein four local students/educators are selected from a pool of applicants to attend SVWC with a full scholarship pass.

 

Learn more about Blaine County schools outreach programming.

 

Photo credit: Halsey Pierce

     

 

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