The Belonging Project

Forging paths of connection around equity and inclusion

In this initiative, small groups of KidSpirit contributors from different backgrounds meet regularly with staff and KidSpirit alumni over a three-month timeframe to get to know each other while actively engaging and reflecting on difficult issues around equity, identity, and inclusion. Over time, each cohort co-creates a project of their own design and shares their voices on a subject that is meaningful to them.

The Power of Family

By Melanie Zavala Mendoza, Max Mesh, Will Parker, and Sanvi Sirigineedi

Your family determines what resources you have access to; family forms your initial beliefs; family determines where you live; family shapes your dreams and aspirations. Family is everything. Your family is your first sense of community and belonging. The relationships, values, and beliefs we form through our family are influenced by prevailing social issues, and in turn manifest how we are in relation to others, how we see the world, and understand ourselves. Through interviews and reflections, we seek to better understand and express why our families are the way they are and how they influence us.

Melanie Zavala Mendoza:

The person I decided to interview was my grandma. My grandma appreciates that family is everything to her. In the 70s my grandfather immigrated from Mexico to the United States. He came back and forth multiple times, but he had to leave his wife and kids alone in Mexico. My grandma was a single mother for a long time while my grandpa was in the United States. She had to overcome criticism from people, and raise her kids in Mexico by herself.

Max Mesh:

I decided to interview my mother, Edita, to better understand what beliefs our family is built on. My mother was born and raised in a small town in the mountains of Ecuador, Alausi. Her parents immigrated to the US when she was very young, so her grandmother raised her in Ecuador. When she turned 17, she came to the states to be reunited with her parents. Edita attended Laguardia Community College where she got her associates degree in Liberal Arts and Science. Then she attended City College where she obtained a Bachelors and Masters in Education and an Advanced Certificate in School Psychology. Edita worked in the early childhood field for over 10 years and then co-founded Losninos Services in 1998. Edita oversees the operations of Losninos Services, an award winning company that provides services to young children with special needs.

Will Parker:

I interviewed James Parker, my dad. My father is well-educated and well-traveled. He has a bachelor’s degree in Economics and Computer Studies, a Master’s of Business Administration in Finance, and a Doctor’s of Jurisprudence. He has worked as a computer analyst, an officer on a nuclear submarine, a banker, and a lawyer. Currently, he works with non-citizens immigrating to the United States. He has lived in Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Illinois, Texas, Rhode Island, Georgia, Connecticut, and Hawaii. He has traveled to countries in North America, South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. In this interview, we will be focusing on family. We will be covering such topics as the relationships, values, and beliefs our family has, as well as talking about what family means to my dad and his view of some of the key responsibilities of being a parent.

Sanvi Sirigineedi:

The person that I had the privilege to interview is my mother, who values family above everything. My mother has spent the past twenty years in the United States, where her view and outlook on familial relations has changed. Working as a computer engineer, my mother worked hard to get an education and stayed motivated through the support of her mother, father, and grandmother.

Below is a series of interviews from Melanie, Max, Will, and Sanvi in which they each ask their family members questions about what family means to them, values that have been passed down, the most important lessons they have learned from family, what it means to belong, and their hopes for the future of their families.

In addition to the core questions Melanie, Max, Will, and Sanvi each asked their family members, they added their own specific questions to deepen their discussions.

Waveform audio sample

Melanie Zavala Mendoza is a 14-year-old from Antioch, California. She is in the ninth grade and is interested in book series such as Harry Potter, Dork Diaries, and Max Crumbly. Melanie's favorite hobby is swimming.

Max Mesh is a junior at the NYC iSchool in New York City. In his free time he enjoys playing electric guitar, skiing with his friends, and writing science fiction.

Will Parker is a 16-year-old in 11th grade from Houston, Texas. He speaks English, Portuguese, and French fluently, enjoys traveling the world with his parents, and competes in national and international tennis tournaments. During his free time, he likes to read and watch movies, tv shows, and sports with his family.

Sanvi Sirigineedi is a 16-year-old from Apex, North Carolina. Sanvi is interested in activism, culture, philosophy, religion, literature (especially diversity in literature), teenage mental health, and cinema.