Music is an efficient way to express oneself while forming a sense of comfort and community in a new place. It is why Josh Zepeda, a social worker at Sullivan High School in Chicago, encouraged students to join the school’s rock band.
“Having cultural-themed assemblies is a great way to get migrant youth involved in school,” he told The Chicago Sun Times. “It makes people feel like they are a part of something.”
Ahiled, Luis and Antony are among the school’s migrant population from Venezuela. They have fled their home country and have sought refuge in the United States. The school has opened its doors to over 70 Venezuelan students, who say they can finally focus on being teenagers after having experienced hardship.
“It’s so hard to leave your home and your culture,” Ahiled told the outlet. “I really miss my country.”
The 18-year-old enrolled at the high school last year. She has used her voice as a singer to celebrate her story. It is why she decided to perform at the school show.
“Singing, for me, is how I tell my story,” she said.
The band covered “No Se Va” by the Colombian group Morat and “Mi Niña Bonita” by the Venezuelan band Chino & Nacho.
“We chose these songs because Venezuelans are always getting over obstacles,” she added. “We’re showing that, no matter what happens to us, we’re happy to be here.”
For Luis, singing connects him to a family tradition. The 17-year-old sang traditional Venezuelan folk songs with his grandfather while growing up.
“Music is something that’s been passed down from one generation to another in my family,” he said. “I started singing when I was 4 years old.”
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The group wanted to make sure that the music resonated with their classmates. It’s why they enlisted the help of Antony, who is a rapper.
“Anyone who is going through what we’re going through, I just want to wish them the best,” Antony said.
Ahiled noticed her classmates waving a Venezuelan flag on the balcony during the performance.
“It was beautiful,” she said. “I didn’t expect that someone else would have a flag. It felt a little like home because I had my friends and a little bit of my culture.”