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Elizabeth DeBell

Theater teacher and Program Director,  Citrus Hill High School Perris, California

About Elizabeth: I am originally from West Virginia and completed my undergrad degree in theatre in 2012. While working on that degree I had the privilege of stage managing and working on the research team for our school’s Oral History Theatre project based on the Farmington Mine Disaster. This experience was challenging, but also gave me a deep appreciation for oral history work and performance. It has been a joy and an honor to work on oral history and performance once again.

For these projects, my students were in distance learning the entire time, so this somewhat limited their sources for interviews. However, thankfully their parents, family, and close friends were willing to be interviewed about their experiences. These are just a few of the creative projects that students developed from the initial interviews done. It may also be helpful to note that the majority of these projects are from freshmen who are also developing bilingual students.

All featured stories were completed in 2020-2021 in Ms. DeBell's class. All narratives are shared with the narrators' and the interviewers' permission and may have been edited for privacy and clarity. 

Angelica's Story

Angelica's story.png

Interviewer: Ana 

Date of interview: 2021

Artwork created by Ana and is based on Angelica's oral history

This story is about how I realized Mexico is somewhere that is really meaningful to me and my favorite place to travel. 


I was born in the United States in California, but my parents are from Mexico. Since I was very little, I have traveled quite a lot, and every year I go to Mexico and visit. My first time going I was about 10 years old. Since I have family there, they would tell me about how they grew up and many stories about their childhood and what it is like living over there versus here in the U.S. 


Since I would stay at my grandmother's house where my dad grew up, I saw how and where he grew up and kind of experienced it. Over there it is more poor living conditions, and there is not as much luxury over there as here. Here we can literally do anything with a simple phone, but over there it is different. Do not get me wrong I loved my childhood and growing up here, but it is just so different over there compared to here. As I got older and visited for as long as 3 months, I realized how lucky I was to be able to experience and kind of compare what living is like in both places. 


For instance, instead of washing machines we have to wash by hand on rocks with naturally dark water from the river there in Mexico. There is also no dryer, so they had these long strings hanging from one tree branch to another, and we used clips to hang clothes onto the string. When it would rain, we would be on the lookout and ready to go run and pull the clothes off the string before it got wet. Even taking a shower was a very different situation, since we used to not have hot water at all. We used to have to boil water as hot as we could and mix it up with some cold water so that there could be enough. That was the only way they could shower with warm water. However, the most recent time I went we actually had a boiler for the shower, however you still have to be careful since it can get the water boiling hot and burn. 


My favorite thing about going though is how free I feel. My family has lots and lots of land over there, so I am free to run around, gates and fences are made of stick and simple barbed wire. During the sunset, I would go into the cornfields or down to the little creek. I can literally have fun with simple nature, no toys, no electronics or anything. I once sat at the little creek watching the sunset and thinking of how my dad lived compared to me. It is very different, but it is so cool, and it actually means a lot to me. If I had the chance to grow up like my dad, I would and change nothing about it. 

Azucena's story

My mom grew up in the small state of Colima, located in Mexico. She was always fascinated with the English language and tried hard at the subject, learning everything she could and constantly practicing. High school was a mixture of confusion and chaos due to the fact that she had no idea what she wanted to do in college.


After a few failed attempts at different courses that bored her, she finally came back to her original passion, English. She soon decided that she would study the language and become a teacher so that she could share her passion with others. She worked hard for her degree and soon ended up working at the same university that she had graduated from. She had two different part-time jobs while working as a teacher. In the mornings she would go to three different institutions, teaching English to the students for about two hours at each place. When she was done with that she would make her way back to the university where she graduated from where she worked as a librarian in the afternoons. She helped students by looking things up for them and translating documents.


The University that she worked at held very important international gatherings every year. The topics ranging from volcanology, agriculture, education, and meetings between Asian-Pacific regions. Because they needed English speakers, every year when the meetings would take place they would contact my mom. They would have her momentarily go on a hiatus from her other jobs in order to take on tasks such as translating, running errands, transporting people, being a secretary, and a tour guide for all the foreign people who attended these meetings. Her job pretty much consisted of taking care of them and making sure they were comfortable, basically leading them during their in the country.


Throughout those few years that she worked in the University meetings, she tells me that she met people from all over the world, estimating anywhere from 120 to 130 different countries. Including Japan, Korea, China, Indonesia, The U.S., Canada, France, Italy, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, England, and many more.


She worked for many high-class and well-respected people, most of them having doctorate degrees and extensive education histories.


To this day she is still amazed a what she was able to accomplish. A young woman raised in a small town with little money was able to go on and work for all these big and rich people from all over the world. All this happened thanks to her passion for the English language.

Interview completed by Azucena during the 2020-2021 school year.


Written by Briseida
Based on Yadira's Oral History

The expeditions of my family

Although filled with difficult and agony

Was the beginning of a new life in a different country

With empty pockets and an empty pantry

To bring opportunities and a future

To give a better life

To the kids who will grow up later or sooner

And to the woman he loves, life partner and wife

Now we are where we are today

And for that I can give gratitude to my parents

Which I hope they will never downplay

Their accomplishments that gave me my present

I strive to do what they amounted to do

To be as courageous and to be as determined

Have ambitions and dreams that I'll follow through

And to grow like they did as a person

Slideshow: "Family Sacrifice"  
Narrator: Gualterio Santos
Interviewer: Lily Santos
Click on the PDF icon (below) to view Lily's slideshow!


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