Author De Leon will share the ‘Power of Stories’ with ARHS community


Courtesy Gregory Martineau

Author and Keynote Speaker Jennifer De Leon will share her story today, April 7 at Trottier Middle School. The event is open to all members of the NSBORO community.

Ellie O’Connor, Assistant News Editor

Local author Jennifer De Leon will speak at both ARHS and Trottier Middle School today, April 7 to kick off a new district-wide personal story sharing project, “The Power of Stories.”

This school year, the freshman English syllabus implemented a new book called “Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From,” written by De Leon, a Southborough resident. The book is about a Latina girl who transfers to a majority-white high school and includes themes of race and identity. De Leon will host events at both Trottier Middle School and ARHS as a keynote speaker, in which she will expand on her book’s topics and recount her own experiences.

Vice chair of the Southborough School Committee and a member of the NSBORO Coalition for Equity Kamali O’Meally helped organize the Power of Stories event at Trottier Middle School. She welcomes all residents of Northborough, Southborough and surrounding towns, regardless of age, to attend the event at 7 p.m. this Thursday. 

“This [event] won’t be about colleges or jobs, but it’s really about how each of us have a story we are creating, and how it’s valuable to tell those stories,” O’Meally said.

According to O’Meally, participants will listen to a speech from De Leon that will incorporate audience participation. She will mainly provide insight into the writing process of “Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From,” while relating it to her own life as a first-generation Guatemalan-American. 

“[De Leon] will leverage her own Latina background and her books to discuss the ‘power of a single story’ and weave in vocabulary to enlighten the audience on her work with inclusion and equity,” O’Meally said.

The district received grants from the Northborough Cultural Council, Southborough Cultural Arts Council and the Southborough Community Fund to make the events possible. In addition, De Leon will speak to the freshman class during the school day on Thursday to discuss the themes of “Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From,” and collaborate with students on writing activities.

RSVP to the event here.

“[De Leon] is going to talk to [students] about the book, the writing process and students can ask questions and then do some workshopping,” Librarian Kim Honey said. “The book ties into a larger curriculum goal of writing personal narratives. It’s a culmination of a lot of things that freshmen have been studying this year.”

After speaking, De Leon will introduce a new project, The Power of Stories, where anybody can join for free to learn how to share their own stories. This long-term project will last from the spring to the fall, with an emphasis on intersectionality of identities.

“The aim is that [De Leon] will teach the members how to articulate their stories in an engaging way that can really speak to an audience,” O’Meally said. “It will help push people to realize how telling their experiences to others is much more beneficial than keeping them untold.”

The intention behind incorporating “Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From” into the freshman curriculum this school year was to represent more of the student body and diversify the curriculum.

“As a district, we’ve embraced this idea of ‘windows and mirrors’,” Honey said. “We want to provide opportunities for students to have a window into experiences and lives that are different, but we also want to provide opportunities that are mirrors that other students can see themselves reflected in.”

English teacher Deborah Saltzman has incorporated activities into the classroom to help students understand the book, including discussing the themes, conducting background research and writing personal stories. She believes “Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From” was valuable to help incorporate relevant topics to classrooms.

“The district was looking for a book that tied into our equity and diversity goals, so it was a trifecta,” Saltzman said. “We had this local author who was writing a book for teen audiences that addressed a lot of very important issues.”

“Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From” includes subjects such as racism and multiculturalism. Saltzman believes the impact of the book will be crucial in removing barriers between students and increasing empathy throughout the student body.

“A sense of understanding of what other people [experience] goes a long way to closing the gap that is often caused by the unknown,” Saltzman said. “People are uncomfortable with the unknown, and just even reading a fictional account allows just a little more familiarity and comfort between each other.”