On the chilly evening of Wednesday, February 6, a diverse crowd of students, faculty, staff, and community members from the Redding area filled up the Shasta College Theater to hear from Sonia Nazario, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of the best-selling six-part series and book Enrique’s Journey in a public forum on immigration and journalism.
The on-stage conversation with Joaquin Alvarado, co-founder of independent media company and coworking community StudioToBe, focused on Nazario’s reporting on immigration and asylum issues as a current opinion writer with the New York Times. The program consisted of a lively conversation and a rousing Q&A with the audience, and the speakers received a standing ovation. Afterward, Sonia greeted eager attendees and signed copies of her book, a national bestseller, which has been adapted for young readers and published in eight languages.
Audience members noted how timely the event was, given current national conversations around immigration policy, asylum, and border security, and mentioned how exciting it was to see programming like this in Redding, where discussions like these can be rare. Many expressed gratitude that Shasta College and California Humanities teamed up to make it possible. The event was covered broadly in local media, from an interview with Nazario on local NPR affiliate station Jefferson Public Radio, to a recap in local online news source aNewsCafe with highlights from the talk. Local news outlet Trinity Journal featured the event, and an interview with the author talking about how she got her start in journalism as a young girl growing up during the “Dirty War” in Argentina is featured on Redding.com.
The morning after the public event, a group of students from Shasta College met with Nazario over breakfast to have a candid discussion about the realities of being an investigative journalist, the way immigration has impacted their lives and the most important issues they wanted to cover in their community. Many of the students, had been part of the courses by Shasta College instructors Heather Wylie and Chris Rodriguez, where they tried their own hands at investigative journalism with local stories covering the impact of the Carr Fire and more recent Camp Fire in the area. The student journalism was also a focus of the morning show on Jefferson Public Radio featuring Senior Program Officer John Lightfoot appearing along with Rodriguez, and students Maisee Yang and Joshua Yi.
The project was a part of the ongoing partnership between Shasta College and California Humanities as a part of California Humanities’ initiative CA 2020: Democracy and the Informed Citizen. CA 2020 is funded in part by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Democracy and the Informed Citizen Initiative, in partnership with the Pulitzer Prizes and administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils, to bring Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists to schools around the state. One of four community colleges supported in this effort, Shasta College joined San Diego Community College District, Bakersfield College and Foothill-De Anza Community College District in providing hands-on media literacy training and bringing Sonia Nazario to their campuses. The activities Redding were also supported by the McConnell Foundation, an important partner in the success of the initiative.