Challenging Perception

Luis Borrero ’18, digital communications major

Borrero head shot“Growing up in Reading was wonderful, says Albright senior Luis Borrero. A lifelong city resident, the digital communications major brought his impressive design and photography skills to bear to help people relate to his hometown through a joint book project between Albright student-designers and Penn State Berks student-writers. The book, “We Are Reading: Dancing in the City,” was published over the summer to help readers understand the city’s life, challenges and triumphs.

“We Are Reading” is about these incredible dancers in the city and their stories,” explains Borrero, who worked with Albright classmates, Reading dancers and Heidi Mau, Ph.D., assistant director of  communications, to bring the book to life. “I learned a lot from not only the experience of making a book but also the dancers themselves.”

It’s a project that Borrero understands well.

“Reading is like a cultural melting pot,” he says. “There are people from so many different races and backgrounds. Since we all have our struggles, there’s a strong sense of community and personal things we can relate to.”

KINDERGARTEN TO COLLEGE ON ONE STREET

The city of Reading’s 13th Street is perhaps the only place in the United States where a person can attend kindergarten, elementary school, junior high, high school and college, all on the same street without ever leaving. Members of this 13th Street Gang, now numbering in the hundreds, will soon add Borrero to their ranks.

“It was such a unique experience,” says Borrero, who notes difficulties dealing with the ever-changing tide of friends coming and going in the Reading School District. “It has been cool though to go back and see old teachers to let them know I’m still here and growing.”

Borrero made similar connections to the Albright faculty, some of whom are his neighbors.

“I love how personal Albright feels. The professors are very caring and involved in everything,” says Borrero, “from my First-Year Seminar professor Marian Wolbers taking personal time out of her day to make sure I was okay after health complications, to professors Jon Bekken and Mau helping guide me and continually improve myself, to Professor de Syon offering to pay for rides home just so people don’t drink and drive.”

HOPE FOR THE FUTURE

Borrero hopes that the “We Are Reading” book project will help others see more of the positive realities that he recognizes within the city and its citizens.

“People don’t know just how hard we try,” he says.“There’s such a negative stigma to the city, yet there are so many of us trying to shed light on it. Of course, it’s not the safest place in the world, and everyone is very poor, but the people make it all worth it. The bad will always get more attention, but there are many who want to change that. The city is filled with those who strive to change it little by little.”

“We Are Reading” began as a continuation of playwright Lynn Nottage’s dance art installation “This is Reading,” which portrayed historical stories about Reading’s prosperity and decline in the steel and textile mills.The new book looks ahead to Reading’s future by telling personal stories of dancers who currently live in the city. The project also represents how institutions of higher learning can collaborate to address important issues in the communities they share.

Working with his classmates, the dancers and students from another college was both stressful and fun for Borrero, who spoke about the value of taking calculated risks.

“It’s like taking care of a child,” he describes. You can learn so much just by listening to people and experimenting. I learned a lot about compromise and teamwork, design, editing and accomplishment. It’s hard, but you can’t let apprehension and fear of embarrassment hold you back.”

photo of dancer

Featured in the “We Are Reading” book is dancer Jaymes Williams, who teaches weekly dance classes to children at Goggle Works. Photo courtesy of Luis Borrero