It is a Tuesday at the Johnson City Public Library around 5:45 p.m. Callie Longo, 24, is preparing for members to show up for a discussion group that she leads every week.
The conversation group usually spends half of the two-hour period speaking in English and the other in Spanish. Longo began the group as an alternative for people who wish to continue learning and speaking Spanish but do not have the time, or the money, to enroll in courses.
“I noticed when you’re in school, it is really easy to keep up the language skills,” said Longo. “But once you get into the adult world, there is not really anything available unless you’re consistently engaged in conversation.”
Being caught in the middle between two cultures but not truly belonging to either: This is an everyday struggle for many in the United States. This struggle is one that Latino American author Marcos McPeek-Villatoro knows well.
Many U.S. military veterans rely on a method of coping to return to their civilian lives. Maria Perez Whiston relies on fellowship with other veterans.
Whiston, a retired Army veteran, finds her peace in volunteering at the Warrior’s Canvas and Veteran Arts Center, an art gallery in downtown Johnson City that allows veterans to showcase their work, take classes and sell their art. The gallery offers supplies free of charge to the veterans in an effort to give them fellowship and socialization with one another.
A farmworker dons his work gear, readying himself for another long, hot day in the fields. As he prepares to leave, his young daughter Lucy stops him, hoping to come with him.
The man shakes his head, telling Lucy he doesn’t want her to get hurt. She reacts in anger and sneaks into the fields against his will. Then, she comes across plants that have just been sprayed with pesticides.
“Oh, plants,” she remarks as she eats one, curious. Her father finds her soon after, collapsed from symptoms of poisoning. He rushes her to the hospital, but her condition proved too advanced to cure.
When you ask Silvia Fregoso how many children she has, she asks, "My biological children or my other children?"
For the last 27 years, Fregoso has worked in early childhood education with the Telamon Corp. Migrant and Seasonal Head Start program. She currently has 31 children under her care in Elizabethton. When she started her career, Fregoso wasn’t sure if the job was right for her.
"My husband worked in the fields back in those days, and they had no bilingual people to work with the Head Start program, and I wasn't really bilingual yet, but Head Start recruited me," she said.