Building community through storytelling

Amelia Wellman ’19, Political Science Major Hometown: Goldston, North Carolina “I have this belief that my purpose in life is to help others in any way that I can. Because of that, I’m involved with different types of community service. I do Church Under the Bridge on Saturdays and I also recently became involved with ECAR (Every Campus a Refuge). I am also really passionate about diversity. I grew up in a very predominantly white neighborhood, a very small town in Goldston, North Carolina. It’s a very rural area, our main street doesn’t even have a stoplight. Growing up I was not really exposed to diversity and looking back on it now, when I was in school I often felt the need to do things that made me feel like I belonged more or fit in more. In some ways it pulled me away from the culture of my own family and now that I’m older and in college I am trying to make up for that. I define American as anyone who uplifts and supports other people regardless of their background. To me that is American.”

Social documentary photographer Lewis Hine knew that he needed his images to elicit emotion from the audience because he knew that emotion spurs action. In order for emotions to be valid, photographs must represent authentic and genuine subjects.

One non-profit organization which uses powerful photography and storytelling to shift the conversation about immigrants, identity and citizenship in a changing America is Define American which was founded in 2011 by Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas with Jake Brewer, Jehmu Greene and Alicia Menendez.

Define American has developed a nationwide program which consists of over 50 college chapters across 22 states. This program mobilizes student leaders to share their stories with their college communities.

The Guilford College Define American chapter has spent this past year interviewing the students that make up this institution. Students are asked to share what they are passionate about and also to answer the question, “How do you define American?”

These are their stories: