Alondra Santana: Apoyo, ánimo, y valentía

By Meileen Arroyo, Staff Writer

  “I think when it comes to being quiet a lot of the times people feel like they’re going to get judged. That’s what it was for me.”                

     Glossophobia is the fear of public speaking. Often a fear of public speaking is characterized as people’s “biggest” fear, however, public speaking isn’t the main cause of the fear but instead the thoughts and feelings that arise from it. Nevertheless, glossophobia is very common in American society. According to the website, “[Glossophobia] affects as many as four out of ten Americans.” Traumatic experiences, embarrassment, rejection, isolation, being the center of attention, self esteem, and differences in status can have an impact on people’s ability to speak in front of larger audiences. Generally, individuals with glossophobia restrict their own voice as a way to let other voices overshadow theirs, but what happens to those groups who are already silenced by society? How do they combat their fear when exclusion is prominent in their everyday life? 

     Para Alondra Santana la respuesta fue apoyo, ánimo, y valentía. 

     Alondra Santana is a sophomore and AVID student. Santana struggled with public speaking and voicing her opinion all throughout her educational career. Santana’s fear of judgment controlled her voice and the impact she had on her community. She felt as if her words had the potential to be judged and discouraged. 

     “I always felt like I was going to be judged or there was going to be someone with a better idea. I think that [impacted] me [to] be quiet,” Santana said. “I would never get first pick because people would [assume] ‘oh she’s quiet,’ but deep down I had something to say.”

     Santana attended Fowler Middle School during the years of 2018-2021. One of the classes that challenged her fear was AVID 7. The AVID 7 curriculum focuses on student’s school confidence, academically and personally. Students work on public speaking through philosophical chairs (debates) and socratic seminars (discussion). Public speaking is emphasized by encouraging students to go out of their way to speak and email their teachers on their own. Throughout the year, students work on study skills such as note taking, organization, and asking questions in their classes.

     Fowler Middle School 180, AVID, and pathways teacher, Holly Rendell, was the person Santana found support in. 

     “Alondra was pretty quiet when I first met her. She stayed quiet during our first discussions, but I could tell that she had things to say based on the look on her face. Sometimes I would overhear her whisper a response to one of her friends and I would tell her to please [share] that to the class because that’s a great response,” Rendell said. “We had many discussions in AVID and Alondra started to share more of her thoughts throughout the year. She had great contributions to the debates that really made others think about the topic differently. She started taking more risks and volunteering a lot more in the discussions. Her confidence definitely influenced others to join the conversations as well.”

     “Teachers always told me that I had very good ideas. [Rendell] supported me and she would tell get out of my bubble,” Santana said. “I was so scared to speak but when I saw that everyone me empezo a apoyar, that’s when I started to improve.”

     The support from Rendell helped shape Santana into the person she is today and hopes to continue to be: una líder y defensora. Alondra was introduced to MEChA in her 8th grade year. Prior to organizing MEChA, Fowler provided the H.O.T club (Hispanic Outreach group). Santana was involved in H.O.T since her 6th grade year and was given the position as president of Fowler’s MEChA club. Now in her sophomore year, Santana is the current volunteer coordinator for MEChA.  

      “I wanted to continue [MEChA] because I got comfortable talking to people. I was very quiet back then. I could barely speak, but now I feel like I can’t stay quiet. Going into high school I saw there was MEChA and I started being involved,” Santana said. “I started listening to what others had to say and when the opportunity was given to [sign] up [to be] an officer for the upcoming year I joined. I wanted to put my leadership and communication skills to use. I wanted to be someone that a student could rely on. Be that person for someone [else].”

     Voicing your opinions and ideas, especially as a student of color, can oftentimes feel overwhelming and anxiety inducing. Public speaking can produce negative feelings about oneself and one’s academic performance. Glossophobia may seem impossible to overcome pero para Santana arriesgándose, encontrando apoyo, y siendo vulnerable es un pequeño paso hacia una vida llena de liderazgo y defensa. 

     “I want people to know that [in the] moments where you have really good ideas it’s [important] to share them. You shouldn’t stay quiet. If you want to do something, go ahead and do it. Try it. Give it a shot,” Santana said. “Don’t think about it, instead take action. That got me somewhere and I’m at a really good place. I’m doing what my younger self wouldn’t see me doing.”