DP: Dafne Paramo, participant
AS: Aryn Schriner, interviewer
Transcribed by Aryn Schriner

July 25, 2022

AS: Can we start with you sharing your name and how you spell your name?

DP: Of course, my name is Dafne Yasmin Paramo De La Rosa. Very long name.  So that’s my first name, my middle name, and my last name from my mom and then the other one from my dad. So that’s how it’s done custom in Mexico, right, that’s the custom. The spelling is D-A-F-N-E, Y-A-S-M-I-N, P-A-R-A-M-O, D-E L-A R-O-S-A.

AS: Thank you. Can, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your family?

DP: Of course. Originally I was born in the city of Puebla, Mexico. My mother and father are also from there. I have a younger brother. He was born in Mexico, and then our youngest brother was born in the United States.

AS: How did your family decide to settle in this area?

DP: So we decided to settle in this area because there were a lot of landscaping jobs, a lot of manual labor, and that’s originally what brought us here. When we migrated from Mexico we ended up in Los Angeles, California, but it was a rougher area. There was a lot of competition as well to look for jobs. So a lot of people have that question, right? How come we ended up in Scranton, Pennsylvania, all the way on the other side of the United States? And that’s the reason: manual labor, landscaping jobs, a lot more opportunity.

AS: What does your family do now?

DP: My family does a little bit of everything. We have a car dealership business that my brother started. They have a paving company and a landscaping company.

AS: That’s awesome. What neighborhood do you currently live in?

DP: I live in Kingston. So it’s right across the bridge. I’m close to Kings [College]. I’m close to Wilkes Barre. I’m close to Scranton and Dickson City, which is where my family resides. And now I’m within driving distance of the places that are important to me.

AS: How would you describe this particular region?

DP: So, this region is – I find it that, especially now, there’s a lot of people from different walks of life, right. And that’s something that we didn’t see. For example, back when I migrated here. We didn’t see a lot of Hispanic people. Now there’s not only Hispanic people living here, but there’s people from all different walks of life. So, it’s a lot more diverse than it was before.

AS: What’s your favorite thing about living in this area?

DP: My favorite thing about living here is the community. It’s a community that knows each other, that works well, and they always, they’re always looking out for each other. For example, if someone is looking for the ESL program, they know who to reach. If someone is looking for, I don’t know, like help or assistance with just settling in here, they know who to reach. And even if they don’t, they know the places to contact where they can receive more help. So that’s my favorite thing about being here in a big city. Once you arrive, it’s a lot more difficult to find that sort of help. So that’s what I like about Wilkes Barre.

AS: What would you say is your least favorite thing about living in this area?

DP: My least favorite thing would kind of be the same thing <laughing>. It’s a small place. There’s not much to do, of course, like in the city. So that would be my – if I had to pick something, it would be that. That it’s a small, small town.

AS: What do you think is important about the history of this region?

DP: So, we focus a lot on history, especially here on King’s College. So, King’s College was originally [created] for the sons of coal miners and that – that’s kind of where the McGowan Hispanic Outreach Program takes its roots as well. They continue to serve the underrepresented population, and the underrepresented population was the Hispanic population, and that’s what they had in mind when the program was started back in 2006. It’s to continue that legacy and to continue helping the population that is most at risk. So that’s why I believe it’s important because history repeats itself, but in different ways with different groups of people.

AS: Can you talk a little bit more about what you mean by history repeating itself?

DP: Yes, of course. So, back then the sons of coal miners, they had little opportunity to go to college. When King’s College came here, that was their mission, their mission was to offer those opportunities to that specific group. With the program, it’s doing the same thing. It’s offering opportunities to a specific group that is at risk, and it’s identified as, at this time, as the Hispanic population.

So, they started with programs such as the ESL program. And I think that’s it. That’s all that there was. Eventually it branched off to middle school, high school mentoring. We partner with Education Department at Dan Flood. And we do tutoring services there as well. So that’s, that was the roots of the program.

Now we have so many other programs and it’s branched out to the King’s College students as well. We still have the ESL program. So, it went from just a handful of students to now the entire program. We have 150 students registered every semester. So, it’s gotten very large. And now we offer citizenship classes, we offer parent involvement workshops. We offer work study opportunities for Hispanic students and our Hispanic students working here.

So, these students at Kings, if they are Hispanic, they receive a lot more services, like mentoring programs as well. They receive career path training. And if they’re not Hispanic, they learn about the culture, they learn about the language. We do our best to try to accommodate their work study to their major, so if they’re in marketing, we’ll have them do some marketing work for us and flyers. So they get to live the culture, make friends, get paid, and get some working experience. So now the program has branched out so much, not only into the community, but everywhere else on campus as well.

AS: That’s wonderful. So, what kind of work do you specifically do for the program?

DP: So, as director of the program, I do a little bit of everything. Of course, so I was in the assistant director position before and that was more hands on working with the programs. I do that as well. I still currently do that with my assistant director. We coordinate with a lot of these activities. But some of my responsibilities now would be to track students’ success, meet with college students, prepare them for their next classes or next semester. So just offer assistance and guidance. We do some counseling, we do some evaluations if they’re struggling, and then we refer them to other offices that would be better suited to cover their needs. So we’re kind of like a one stop shop for our students at Kings.

AS: So, what do you like to do on the weekends or when you’re not working?

DP: When I’m not working? I like to do a lot of nature stuff. It’s – it’s really nice, especially in this area, like hiking. There’s a lot of opportunity for hiking and do things out in nature. I think one of my favorite ones is Ricketts Glen, the Ricketts Glen. Hiking tours, we do… what else have we done? We’ve done biking.

Several of my students, once they come back every year, the McGowan scholars, that’s what they’re called, and you can see them up in that wall. The McGowan scholars are the students that received the McGowan Hispanic Scholarship. So, we like to get them together once they come in and have a little retreat. And we do a lot of nature things in that retreat. So, last year, I took them kayaking. Another year we went hiking, the other year we went biking. So, we tried to disconnect from technology and connect to nature as much as we can.

AS: So, are there – you’ve kind of already spoken about this, but are there specific places that you enjoy visiting? Like what are your favorite places?

DP: My favorite places – so, I love food. I love food and I love to try new places all the time. Every time we’re speaking about food, my favorite place here in Wilkes Barre currently would be la Casa Blanca, where they have Hispanic cuisine, mainly Dominican cuisine.

Like I said, hiking. I also enjoy the movies and Montage, I enjoy that area in Montage Mountain where they have this small waterpark. So, some of those are the areas that are nearby. We also have the parks that my family and I usually visit when we have bigger family events. McDade Park is a good one.

AS: Can you share a little bit about your community?

DP: I feel like I have two communities. Community here in Wilkes Barre, and then I have a community in Scranton. Since I grew up in Scranton, I still think of that as my community. My teachers, my professors, friends, family that I have back there, I go back there on the weekends, and we’re a tight knit community so we keep in contact.

The Wilkes Barre community, same thing. Everyone is so loving. Everyone knows each other. And it’s a small place, right, so everywhere we go – if we go to Walmart, if I go to Rite Aid, Walgreens, it’s more than likely that you’ll see someone that you know here, so I enjoy that. I like seeing people outside of work. I like seeing how they are, how they’re doing, and connecting with them on a different level.

AS: What types of activities – and you’ve talked a little bit about hiking – what types of other activities are you involved in?

DP: Well, my parents were dancers. My dad’s a salsa instructor. So, I love to dance. I absolutely love to dance, and I dance everything from salsa, merengue, bachata, cumbia, and all of those are typical dances that we have. So, I enjoy dancing. I love dancing.

I incorporate dancing here as well when we have the Hispanic Festival at Kings. We usually do a little, an exhibition for the students. And then we do a salsa class and invite the students, faculty, and staff to join us as well and dance so that that’s perfect because we usually started in Hispanic Heritage Month. This year, I think, we’re going to start a day before: September 14 is going to be the festival. And September 15 is the start of Hispanic Heritage Month. But I try to incorporate dance in anything that I do. I find it very therapeutic, and so I share that with, with everyone.

AS: Are there particular challenges that you and your community face?

DP: Yes, there are many challenges. I believe one of the biggest challenges that I’ve been seeing is the people or the community that we help – a lot of this community, they’re extremely smart. They have a career in their country. They’re lawyers or doctors or dentists, they’re these great grand things and they had their career, but unfortunately, they did not have the opportunity back in their country.

So, once they arrive here it’s starting from zero, right, and they would rather that for their family because there is no opportunity [in their former countries]. And I think that’s something that’s difficult to understand. It’s difficult to understand why – then why would you come here? But obviously it’s because the opportunity wasn’t available there and they would rather start from zero in the United States than somewhere else.

One of the biggest challenges that we see here is acculturation, getting used to a new culture, job hunting. We see a lot of new migrants…again, they just don’t have enough information about their legal rights, about minimum wage, and they get taken advantage of unfortunately. And they get paid less than minimum wage for hard labor. That’s some of the things that we see as a challenge for new migrants. And you know, we tried to spread awareness and information for that as well.

AS: Would you say that – is anthracite coal history important to and to your community?

DP: Yes, I think it is. That’s where our history comes from, right. It comes from the coal miners. And this summer we actually took our middle school summer students to the Anthracite [Heritage] Museum to learn about that, to learn about how it was, where our history is, where history comes from, and why it’s important. The kids were amazed they – they’re amazed at all the information. How at their age, they would already be working and they would already be in the coal mines and doing dangerous jobs.

It brings a little bit of awareness to them as well because we connect it back to their families. They were migrants at the time, the coal mining families, they were migrants, they came with nothing. They came with only a few belongings. So, we try to make those connections with them as well and say, ‘Hey, think back, when you moved here, how many things did you bring? You didn’t bring a whole house, you didn’t bring…you bought a few personal belongings, right? And now you, we are trying to create a new life here.’

And it’s the same thing. So that’s what I mean when I say the history repeats itself. And the students really seem to grasp it. We had sixth, seventh, and eighth graders go to that field trip. And they really enjoyed it. They loved it. They asked follow-up questions. Even in the park, we took them to the park, the big park, and they would come back and ask, ‘Hey, so at my age would we do this and this and this?’ And like, yes, you would.

So for our high school students this summer, we did the same thing. We talked about the history of how the college was started and what population it was started from. And one of our students, his comment was that he appreciated the program because it made him see things in a new light and made him appreciate things more. Appreciate his family, appreciate what they have done, like the sacrifices and struggles that they went through.

AS: What parts of anthracite history is worth remembering and making sure that your generation your community will remember going forward?

DP: I think all of them. All of them are relevant, every single part. The manual labor, the low wages, and what the area was built on. I think they’re all important to remember.

AS: Is there anything else that you’d like to share about yourself or your family or community?

DP: I would like to share that even though there have been struggles, and especially as a newcomer, not knowing anyone – we have met some really wonderful people here. Incredible people actually, that I and we personally owe our success to. I know that there are a lot of struggles with racism, with all of that, but I think it’s important to also acknowledge that there are really wonderful people here that do want to help, do want to help the community and [they] have.

And I, I could say that’s my personal testimony. We’ve met incredible people. My dad’s old boss, he has become a family member and a really important person in our life. My teachers – I can honestly say that I would have never reached the point of success that I have reached without my teachers, without mentors, and especially without this program. So, I was one of the recipients of the McGowan Scholarship. Before, I had no idea about college, I thought college was too expensive for me. I thought there was no opportunity for me. And once joining this program, it changed everything. It changed my outlook in life. It changed my education. It was just a life changing program for me that I am honored to continue the legacy. I am so honored.

Our students, I tell them that all the time. I tell them my story because they are still students that are in the same boat. They don’t think college is for them. They don’t come from a wealthy family. They don’t come from a family with a lot of education. A lot of our students, their parents sometimes have a very low education level. And they’re not aware of the struggles that a college student faces in the application process. So, we’re working on that with the families, with the students.

There is so much to be thankful for. And I always say especially King’s College and the Hispanic Outreach Program. I believe everything has a purpose as well and that God moves pieces as he sees fit. And I believe I’m here because of that. And not because of… I’m here because of him. Choice – it’s not my choice. I just follow, I just go wherever he needs me to be or whatever God needs me to be. So, I’m very honored to be in this position and to be serving the community.

AS: Thank you so much for sharing your story and what you’ve shared about your community and your life. And that’s it. That’s all we have.

DP: Thanks so much for listening to my story.