Story of Jimez, a Mexican immigrant, comes to life for local seventh-graders taught by ISU students as part of Human Rights Day

April 5 2006

RE: Human Rights Day, April 13

How do you teach children about the problems of poverty, hunger and homelessness? An Indiana State University professor and his elementary education students decided the best way was to tell them the truth.

This semester, more than 200 area seventh-grade students have been reading "The Circuit," the autobiographical story of Francisco Jimez, a Mexican immigrant, and his family's struggle with poverty.

The book was provided to the schools involved in the project - West Vigo Middle School and Southridge Middle School in Dubois County - through a grant from ISU's Center for Public Service and Community Engagement.

Stan Evans, associate professor of English at ISU, said he chose the two middle schools for specific reasons. Students from West Vigo Middle School know a lot about the theme of the book - poverty. The other theme of the book - immigration - is a well-known topic for students at Southridge Middle School.

"West Vigo Middle School has about 87 percent of their students on free or reduced lunch," Evans said. "Southridge has about 10 percent Hispanic students."

Elementary education students in the Literature and Life class taught by Evans have been working with the seventh-graders to help them comprehend the story.

Melissa Pancake, a junior elementary education major from Washington, Ind., presented a lesson plan - that she and two other students created - to the seventh-grade classes.

"I thought it would be neat to have the students write an alternate ending to the book," Pancake said. "One of the other ISU students wrote an alternate ending as a model, and a different ISU student read the sequel to how the author's life actually progressed."

Other students in the class created a study guide for "The Circuit's" sequel, "Break Through." The study guide will be given to Vigo County high schools, since the book is about Jim鮥z's life while he was in high school.

"We did that as kind of a gift for Vigo County schools because they are thinking about using the book in the high schools," Evans said.

Students also compiled an annotated resource list related to the book, which included videos, artwork and other books with a theme similar to "The Circuit."

The culmination of the lesson will be when the students meet Jim鮥z, Ph.D., professor of Modern Languages and Literatures at Santa Clara University, Ca., on April 13 as part of Human Rights Day in Terre Haute. The city-wide event focuses on the issues of poverty, hunger and homelessness, which the students have been learning about through Jim鮥z's story.

The seventh-grade students will participate in a day-long event at ISU's Cunningham Memorial Library. Their activities will include breakout sessions and a discussion with Jim鮥z; as well as a performance of "La Causa," an interactive drama that includes video.

Myrna McCallister, dean of library services at Cunningham Memorial Library, and her staff have been working on this event since the fall semester.

"We've planned a day for them here in the library, which will introduce them to the greater themes of poverty and homelessness, but specifically as they relate to migrant workers, particularly Hispanic migrant workers," McCallister said.

The library will feature videos, pictures, and other visual aids to help the students relate to the poverty many migrant workers face, she said.

"The students are going to hear a little Spanish from what they've read," McCallister said. "They're going to be able to see the author and expand upon what they learned from their reading."

This project was beneficial to all students involved, both the seventh-graders and collegians.

The college students were able to "gain experience in a different classroom," Pancake said. "We are all education majors, so this was extremely beneficial for our careers."

Also, Evans said, the college students were able to integrate their classroom learning with real-life experiences.

"It's a much more immediate connection between literature and their lives, and that's very important," Evans said. "If you can make college students understand that any art form is directly related to their lives, or related to their whole community, that's what you ought to be doing."

The seventh-grade students were able to benefit from reading "The Circuit" by relating the literature to their real lives.

"I think for some of those students in West Vigo, it's a way to identify that other people are like them. They're not alone," Evans said. "And from a different perspective, I think some of the students from Southridge may have an opportunity to see a real success story."

McCallister agreed. She said the book enabled students to realize "it's not just them" in the situations of immigration and poverty.


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

-- 3:30 p.m., Root Hall room A-264 - Jimenez will present at the ISU English Department's Schick Lecture Series. His topic is "The Legend of La Llorona (The Weeping Woman)"

Thursday, April 13, 2006

-- 11-11:30 a.m., Cunningham Memorial Library - Jimenez will be speaking to the seventh-graders about his experiences, including several from the book they will have read, "The Circuit"
-- 12:30-1:15 p.m., Cunningham Memorial Library - Middle school students will see a performance of "La Causa" (video with live actor interaction)
-- 1-2 p.m., Dede II - Jimenez will lead "Why I Write" workshop for ISU students
-- 2-3 p.m., Dede II - Jimenez will lead "The Circuit and Breaking Through" workshop for ISU students

-- 30 -

Contact: Stan Evans, associate professor of English, Indiana State University, (812) 237-3260 or

Writer: Megan Anderson, media relations intern, Indiana State University, (812) 237-3790 or

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Story Highlights

ISU elementary education students in the Literature and Life class taught by Stan Evans have been working with local seventh-graders to help them comprehend "The Circuit," the autobiographical story of Francisco Jimez, a Mexican immigrant.

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