By Debra Kennard, Board of Directors
Photographs help Claudia Romero remember mileposts from her childhood. She has photos of family gatherings in Mexico, a birthday celebration in Georgia, beach days in Alabama, and classes at the St. Louis school where she felt welcome and also especially proud when she made the honor roll in 8th grade.
So Claudia’s answer to the challenge of making personal a Project Know Us video was to tell her story with photos. It was scary to open up to the project leaders and think about sharing her educational journey in such a public way, but she realized that knowing others’ stories helped her feel less alone with her goals and challenges. Perhaps she could do the same for someone else by sharing hers.
The photos from Claudia’s teenage years didn’t show her planned days of high school clubs and activities, but instead were filled with two beautiful children. Her growing family became her world and the motivation for choices and changes in the next years.
Nine years after leaving formal school, her natural curiosity and desire to feel more accomplished drove her to earn her GED. The photo of her wearing her cap and gown flanked by her proud mother and children marks a day she remembers as one of the “best feelings ever!”
Claudia knew she wanted to go to college next and navigating the information (and disinformation) to understand her options caused personal turmoil until she found support from Scholarship Foundation staff “who never hesitated to help out in any way possible.”
Armed with information, knowledgeable advice, and financial support, as well as her quiet and determined drive to succeed in reaching her educational goals, Claudia enrolled at St. Louis Community College. Classes and advising led her to shadow a radiologist at work. “I would never have imagined a career in radiology,” she remembers, “but I thought it was interesting and it just fit.” She is now close to completing the radiology technology program and receiving her degree.
The end of Claudia Romero’s Project Know Us video project shows a picture of her on a river with its beginning and end out of sight. The narrow banks seem to barely hold back chaotic and lush growth all around her. The firm support of a lifejacket holds Claudia and, as you might guess, she’s looking up.
The exhibit Know Us: Stories of St. Louis Students Finding Their Way will be on display at the Missouri History Museum at 5700 Lindell, St. Louis through March 29, 2020. For more information about the project and the exhibit, visit sfstl.org/KnowUs.