Estefania Sanchez – The Journey Begins

My name is Estefania Sanchez. I am 21 years old and currently majoring in broadcast journalism at Southern Adventist University. I am the daughter of two hard-working parents and the second of four children. I come from a Mexican background and was raised to love, respect and appreciate all people.

From a very young age, I was taught that the world is a place full of many beautiful things; and as a result, I have fallen in love with learning. My interest in discovering new things has ignited in me a passion for traveling. I have had the privilege of indulging in the beauty of many places inside and outside of the country. However, I can confidently say that my favorite location is Chiang Mai, Thailand.

My trip to Thailand confirmed that I had a heightened interest in photography and writing. There was something about being able to capture a single moment in a photo or a piece of writing that was magical. It allowed me to share my story and the story of others with people that weren’t there in the moment. I strongly believe that this is one of the greatest treasures a person can possess. Being able to convey stories to others so that they may feel as if they were there is truly a gift that I would not trade.

Over the course of this semester, and through this project, I hope that I can deliver a voice and visualize to people of the world that diversity is beautiful.

Kiaya Simone – Pushing the Conversation

Hi! I am Kiaya Robertson. However, per my byline, I go by Kiaya Simone. I am 19 years old and was born in the beautiful city of Atlanta, Georgia. I, along with my younger brother, was raised in a home of two loving parents.

My mother originally grew up as a Seventh-day Adventist and is now non-denominational, while my father grew up Baptist and now identifies as non-denominational as well.

I am a broadcast journalism major and a political science minor. My ultimate goal is to become a news anchor, international correspondent, or political correspondent for a broadcast company.

Some things that I enjoy doing in my free time are reading memoirs and any kind of fiction, singing, writing, listening to and discovering new music. I also enjoy swimming competitively.

As a communication major and practicing Adventist, I recognize how paramount it is to bring forth a balanced perspective when focusing on community and church. I believe that the Lord wants us to join in harmony, reason with one another, and shed light on how differently we think while making an effort to understand each other. There are so many different people around the globe that identify themselves as Adventist and really want to be a part of the church community.

I believe many members want to see a reflection of themselves in culture. They want to understand why diversity in age, gender, and ethnic background is crucial to our religious practice. I feel that with this platform, I have an opportunity to help bridge that gap, or at least start pushing the conversation.

Anaelys Trochez – Seeking the American Dream

Hello, my name is Anaelys Trochez, and I am a second generation Seventh-day Adventist. I was born and raised in the beautiful Sunshine State and the city known as Miami, Florida. As a child, I grew up in a multicultural environment — different forms of life and cultures surrounding my life, especially at church. I belonged to a small Hispanic congregation, which was my first exposure to different cultures. 

My mother was born in Cuba but migrated to the United States as a one-year-old, and my father moved to the United States from Honduras as a grown adult.

I heard the many stories of the different homes my fellow church members left behind like Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. I always ponder why would someone abandon their home country and searched for a new one.

I found that although the journey from which we all come from maybe be different, the reason remains the same. Like my parents, the church members sought a new way of living and the American dream.

Although many had to leave their families behind, they created new ones within the church community. Ultimately, the freedom to worship drives us to share in fellowship.

As a mass communication major, I want to be able to tell the story of our church that unites us as a whole.

Although we are all different, we have a Creator who loves us the same.

Zailin Pena – Navigating Two Worlds

My name is Zailin Peña. I was born in Cuba and was brought to the states at the early age of one.

I was raised in a Hispanic household, my parents not speaking English. My sister and I had to fend for ourselves when we went to school.

Eventually, we learned the native language of our new country, and we were able to do what was needed to succeed. It wasn’t easy, but I discovered that being bilingual has its many perks and can open many doors.

My grandfather was a Seventh-day Adventist pastor in Cuba, and he continued to be one once we moved to the states.

I was raised Adventist, along with my older sister. Our parents and grandparents always reminded us of what was right and wrong according to what the Bible said, and that we should never lose our faith.

As life has gone by, I have realized that I haven’t lived up to some of the spiritual expectations that were set for me as a child.

I have grown, and I’ve made decisions that don’t reflect the ideals that I was taught. I have seen the error of my ways, and I am trying to grow from them.

Gianni Arroyo – Growing up a PK

Hello! My name is Gianni Arroyo but I prefer going by Gia. I was born in the beautiful island of Puerto Rico. My family moved from Puerto Rico to Miami after my dad graduated from Antillian Adventist University.

Growing up a pastor’s kid I had to deal with moving around quite a
few times. Adjusting to new environments was difficult for me. So, at an early age, I found ways to cope with the changes through writing.

This opened a new world for me. Being a Seventh-day Adventist is a big part of my life. So much so that I’ve lost count of how many generations my family has been a part of the denomination.

I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly in our church, especially as a pastor’s kid.

Diversity within our church is a topic that I find very interesting and important.
It is critical to our survival as a denomination.

I believe in the message of our church and would love to see us flourish.

Hannah D’Avanzo – Just Call Me Hannah

To ask who I am, one would get an answer that is complex, yet straight forward. My first name is simple, Hannah. My last name, if spelled correctly, comes with an apostrophe…D’Avanzo.

I am a child of two parents who are from different races and have very different cultural practices. My mother is Filipino and my father is Italian. In our home, strong Asian values prevailed yet I only understood and spoke the language native to my father. For that reason, I often felt that I should choose which race I would be more a part of than the other. In reality, I am not just one or the other.

Today, as I expand my knowledge of research and race, I realize my background does not dene me, but is an accessory of who I am.
I do not have to choose one race because one box can’t be as encompassing as I am. I am diverse, and diversity is beautiful. Having said that, I am very excited to be a part of Interactive Journalism, where we will closely explore and write about diversity, race and unity within the Adventist church. I hope you will follow our posts and enjoy our discoveries on investigating diversity.

Paola Mora – Growing in Diversity

My name is Paola Mora and I had a problem with belonging.

My parents are missionaries and, as a result, I moved around a lot. In my twenty years of life, I have lived in eight different countries: Guatemala, Costa Rica, Honduras, Argentina, Chile, Philippines, Hong Kong and, finally, the United States.

It sucked. I just wanted to go somewhere where I belonged. I wanted to nd a culture that I could entirely embrace or a country that I could call home. Instead, I was a mix of various customs, values, and beliefs. I was like a puzzle piece that could never just quite fit in.

But as the years passed I learned about the beauty of diversity. I realized that things that separate us have the power to unite; the things that make us different are what make life worth living. When I became aware of this everything changed: It changed the way I viewed the world and the way I viewed myself.

That is why I am so excited to be working on this project. I hope that our research gives some insight into the diversity around us; its conflicts, its strengths and what it all means. I hope that this study helps others realize that unity is not always perfect but it is always beautiful.