As part of Hispanic and Latine Heritage month, Xander reflected on his experiences interviewing notable figures from Hispanic and Latine Communities. Check Xander’s page on the Kids Press website to read his stories covering Soledad O’Brien, Maxwell Frost, Uno, Dos, Tres Andrés, and the Smithsonian’s planned National Museum of the American Latino. You can follow the museum on social media at @USLatinoMuseum and check out their learning resources online.
What is it like to be a Kid Reporter?
Being a young reporter has been an incredible journey for me, as it grants me the privilege of interviewing individuals who are at the forefront of newsworthy events, opportunities I wouldn't typically have access to. What’s truly remarkable is that I've had the chance to attend several press conferences for sporting events, where I consistently find myself to be the youngest and only kid in the room.
This experience highlights the abundant opportunities available for young reporters to assert their presence and prove that we, too, possess valuable perspectives and insights worth sharing. Simply by occupying a seat alongside seasoned journalists, I can exemplify the significance of children's voices and their potential impact.
I’ve come to realize that reporters, in a sense, form an exclusive community where mutual recognition prevails. I’ve been fortunate enough to receive respect and guidance from veteran journalists who willingly share their words of wisdom, facilitating my growth in this industry.
How do you decide what to write about?
Deciding on the topics to cover is truly a collaborative process. I immerse myself in various news sources, including magazines and radio, with a focus on identifying captivating stories that would resonate with kids. To refine these ideas, I engage in brainstorming sessions with my mother, who plays a vital role as a sounding board. Together, we meticulously evaluate each story, considering whether it possesses the appeal that would captivate young readers.
Amidst this creative process, I constantly pose the questions, “What makes this story worth knowing? What makes it intriguing to our readers?” Armed with a clear perspective, I present the story concept to my editor, Suzanne McCabe, at Scholastic Kids Press. Upon receiving her approval, we proceed to contact the relevant media figures or events, initiating our journey towards bringing these compelling stories to life.
What’s your favorite part about reporting?
My greatest passion in reporting lies in unveiling stories that often remain hidden from the public eye, lacking the exposure they deserve. A prime example of this lies in the coverage of “National History Day.” Across the nation, our history curriculums are undergoing significant transformations and debates. Amidst this backdrop, we find children from various corners of the country engaged in projects that include documentary films, dramatic skits, tabletop exhibits, and more, all of which serve as compelling showcases of the positive outcomes resulting from their history education.
Furthermore, another aspect of reporting that deeply resonates with me is the opportunity to foster critical thinking and elicit unique perspectives through thought-provoking questions posed during interviews. This ability to encourage individuals to contemplate issues from fresh angles is both a challenge and a rewarding aspect of my reporting journey.
This summer, you covered an event with journalist Soledad O’Brien and Representative Maxwell Frost of Florida, who is the first member of Generation Z to serve in the U.S. Congress. You reported that Rep. Frost, who is of Argentine, Lebanese, and Haitian descent, touched on the challenges he faced growing up and drew from his own experiences to talk about the importance of building relationships with colleagues who have differing viewpoints. What do you think attendees learned from that conversation?
My conversation with Representative Maxwell Frost provided valuable insights into the complexities of pursuing elected office, particularly the significant financial and time commitments involved. As the youngest elected official in the U.S. Congress, he faced numerous formidable challenges during his campaign journey.
These challenges included the financial burden of financing his campaign, which led to personal debt, and the daunting task of securing housing in the pricey Washington D.C. area, even for residents. It’s a considerable undertaking to manage all these responsibilities, especially when you're under 30 and representing constituents from your home state.
Representative Frost’s personal experiences shed light on the critical issue of campaign reform. His struggles with campaign financing underscore the need for equitable changes in the process, ensuring that individuals from diverse backgrounds have a fair chance to run for elected office without financial barriers hindering their path.
You also interviewed Andrés Salguero and Christina Sanabria, who make up the Latin Grammy-winning band Uno, Dos, Tres Andrés (123 Andrés). What was it like to experience a Cinco de Mayo celebration firsthand, and what did you learn from that interview?
I have a little confession to make - I first met Andres Salguero and Christina Sanabria when I was just a toddler. Back then, they were just starting their musical journey. It all began when I was attending preschool and learning Spanish. My mom had this fantastic idea to introduce me to Hispanic music performers who sang in Spanish, thinking it would aid in my language learning. In fact, they even performed at one of my birthday parties when I was around three years old.
Fast forward about a decade, and something remarkable happened – they won a Latin Grammy Award. It’s truly astonishing how their music has resonated with audiences worldwide, even bridging the gap for non-Spanish speakers to appreciate Latin American musical traditions.
During our recent interview, I had the opportunity to delve into some fascinating historical context. I learned that Cinco de Mayo is observed annually on May 5 to commemorate Mexico’s victory over the Second French Empire at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Interestingly, it's often confused with Mexican Independence Day, which falls on September 16 and marks Mexico’s liberation from Spanish colonial rule.
Over time, Cinco de Mayo has evolved into a celebration for Americans of Mexican heritage, thanks in large part to the tireless efforts of Chicano activists in California. This holiday has become a meaningful way to embrace and celebrate their cultural heritage.
What do you hope your readers will take away from these stories?
Through these stories, my hope is to convey the rich tapestry of Hispanic and Latine cultures, emphasizing their immense diversity, which encompasses a fusion of various cultural influences. It’s essential to recognize that within the United States, we cannot assume that all Hispanic people hail from the same country or share identical cultural traditions. For instance, in the Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia region where I reside, a significant portion of the Hispanic population traces their roots to Central America. In contrast, cities like New York City boast a substantial presence of Hispanics from Spanish-speaking Caribbean nations such as the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. In Florida, there’s a sizable community of Cuban descent, among others. The vastness and diversity of Hispanic culture in the U.S. serve as a testament to the remarkable contributions people of Hispanic descent have made, enriching our history and all facets of American culture.
Covering these stories has provided me with valuable insights into Hispanic and Latine Heritage Month. It has underscored the importance of this month-long celebration, which serves as an opportunity for greater understanding and appreciation of the contributions, histories, and cultures of Hispanic and Latino Americans. With nearly 19% of the U.S. population identifying as Hispanic or Latino, it's a significant demographic. Even though I may not share Hispanic heritage, there is still much to learn and appreciate, given the interconnectedness of our shared histories and cultural influences. Recognizing and celebrating this heritage month fosters inclusivity and promotes a richer cultural exchange within our diverse society.