Profiles of the five participants of this study.
Antonio Chapa (17) was a second-generation immigrant, a senior student at FHS, and identified as Mexican-American. While he and his little brother were born in Austin, Texas, his parents and older sister had emigrated to the U.S. 20 years ago from a rural town in San Luis Potosi, central Mexico. At Antonio's home, Spanish was the spoken language. Both parents had low educational and occupational attainment and did not speak English. They had completed only elementary school in Mexico, and worked in low-skilled jobs in Austin such as construction and cleaning. The Chapa family was assimilating to the U.S. and moving upward slowly. Despite their low income, the Chapa parents had bought a house in a working class suburban neighborhood and had been able to provide some economic and technological resources to their children such as a home computer, smart phones, and Internet connection. Furthermore, all children had been enrolled in public school and spoke English fluently. Although the Chapa parents considered education important, they did not understand the U.S. schooling system and lacked the human resources to support their children in acquiring high educational attainment.
Antonio was creative and passionate about the arts, especially drawing, video, and music. Both at home and school, he had cultivated his creativity by using computers, the Internet, and guitars. He loved to mess-around with technology and believed he was media savvy. He considered himself a visual learner and was very proud of his ability to learn anything by messing around with technology. He had learned in this way how to use multimedia authoring software, how to find free content from the web, and how to solve technology problems at home. He spent many hours exploring the Internet, and used the Google search engine to find the information that he needed. Although he visited online communities and forums related to his interests, he limited his participation to reading and watching content and did not publish his own produced media. He downloaded movies, music, and software from bootleg websites and also loved to watch professional videos in the Vimeo web platform. Although he was disconnected from the general-low track core curriculum at FHS, he was deeply engaged in the art and technology elective classes, and in the digital media oriented after-school programs. During his senior year, while participating in one of these programs (Cinematic Arts Project), he found several opportunities to develop his skills as video editor and camera operator and became very passionate about filmmaking. After finishing high school he wanted to pursue a career in the creative industries but did not know how to follow this dream.
Gabriela María Garcia
Gabriela María García (14) was the oldest child of a lower middle-class immigrant family, a sophomore at FHS, and identified as Hispanic and Mexican. She was a second-generation immigrant, born and raised in Austin, Texas. Her parents migrated to the U.S. at different times and from different Latin American countries. Ms. Garcia came to Austin from Honduras 23 years ago, and Mr. Garcia migrated from the border city of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, 20 years ago. Both parents finished high schools in their countries of origin, and despite not having college degrees, they had been able to venture in different entrepreneurial projects in their new country. Mr. Garcia had a managerial position in his own window screen business, and Ms. Garcia worked independently as a personal chef (catering service), a nursing aid, and a house keeper in an exclusive city neighborhood. The Garcia family was moving upward and assimilating to the U.S. quickly. They improved their occupation attainment, had access to several economic and technological resources, spoke English at home, and were in the process of advancing their educational achievement. Gabriela and Eva (12), the two siblings, spoke English fluently, were positioned in the advanced track in school, and had been constantly pushed by their parents to succeed academically and to pursue a postsecondary education.
Gabriela María was academic oriented, high achiever, creative, and considered herself a "fast learner." She enjoyed being in FHS and was positive about schooling and life in general. Besides being good at learning languages (Spanish, English, and French), she was passionate about creative media production, social relationships and psychology. In order to pursue her interest in the media arts, Gabriela joined after school programs such as Band and the Digital Media Club, took elective classes like Video Technology and Photojournalism, and participated in an internship at a local youth media organization. Furthermore, Gabriela had access to several media technologies in her everyday life such as a personal laptop, a smartphone, and a digital SLR photography camera. She invested a lot of time on the Internet finding inspirational art, listening to music, and watching videos. She used social media (Facebook, Twitter), and had published some of her own creative content in web platforms like Flickr and Tumblr. Gabriela had a social personality and liked to help peers giving them advice about life. She had a good relationship with teachers, and a very especial and close one with her dad, who had not only supported her interest in creative media production by buying her many digital tools, but also had motivated her to advance educationally and gain a high academic attainment.
Inara del Carmen Aguirre
Inara del Carmen Aguirre (19) was a second-generation immigrant and the youngest sibling of a lower-middle-class family. She was a senior at FHS and identified as Hispanic. Her parents migrated to Texas from a rural town in Coahuila, northern Mexico, almost 30 years ago and first settled in Houston. After Inara was born the family moved to Austin, together with their two older sons. The Aguirre family was assimilating to the U.S. and so far had found opportunities to move upward. Although the educational attainment of Inara's parents was low and they had only completed high school in Mexico, they worked hard and were able to develop career pathways in service jobs. Ms. Aguirre became a nurse's assistant and worked at a women clinic, and Mr. Aguirre worked in the city of Austin's maintenance department. Inara's dad, however, had also experimented with entrepreneurship and started his own gardening business with the two older sons after they dropped-out community college. Although the family spoke Spanish at home, the parents had learned to speak English, and the children spoke it fluently. In their household, the media environment was rich with several television sets, smart phones, video game systems, laptops, Internet connection, and a hi-fi stereo. The extended Aguirre family lived in Mexico and remained well connected not only by communication technology but also by several trips that members of the family did to both sides of the border. Inara, for instance, used to spend whole summer and winter vacations visiting her relatives in Mexico.
Inara del Carmen was easy going, social and passionate about fashion design. She loved to have new experiences, meet friends, and join social groups. Although she was not engaged in academics and many times struggled to pass school classes, she had decided to continue post-secondary education and applied to several colleges in order to pursue a degree in fashion design. At FHS, she was very involved in extracurricular activities such as the Drill Team, and the Fashion Club, an affinity group she founded in her junior year. She used the Internet for supporting her interest in fashion and her sociability. For instance, she was an active user of the StumbleUpon web platform and found clothes and designs through it. She participated actively in several Facebook groups and was engaged in several online conversations while always avoiding the drama. Furthermore, she also kept an Instagram account where she shared pictures of her everyday life taken with her smart phone. Inara was proud of her Mexican heritage, and had developed a sense of confidence and independence thanks to the support of her family and her own experiences working in several retail and service jobs. She had a close relationship with her mother and her grand mother, and they enjoyed doing activities together such as sewing and watching television soup operas.
Miguel Flores (14) was 1.5-generation immigrant, a freshmen student at FHS, and identified as Mexican. He and his twin brother Marcus were born in Mexico City and moved to Austin with their mother at the age of 6 years old in order to reunite with their father, who had migrated to Texas three years before. Miguel lived in a mobile house in a suburban area together with his parents, Marcus, and two second-generation little brothers of three and five years old. At home, Spanish was the spoken language. Both parents had low educational attainment, had completed only middle school in Mexico, and did not speak English. While the mother did not have a job and stayed at home taking care of the children, the father had made a career working as a cook and had two kitchen jobs. The Flores family was assimilating to the U.S. working class and moving upward. The older children had learned English and spoke it fluently, had finished middle school and were enrolled in high school. The parents valued education and had moved to the suburbs of the city in order to have access to a better school. Furthermore, despite being modest, the Flores' household was equipped with several technology resources such as a desktop computer, large screen television sets, cable television, a video game console (Wii), and Internet connection.
Miguel was passionate about videogames and American heavy metal music. Everyday, he played massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG) such as Minecraft and Perfect World and actively socialized with other players around the U.S. using social network sites and Skype. He exchanged game strategies, collaborated in solving puzzles, and also participated in an informal economy of game assets. For supporting both his gaming and music practice, Miguel relied heavily on the Internet, and particularly on YouTube where he found videos about game tactics and discovered new metal bands. Miguel invested a lot of time watching American television series with his brother in their room private space and they used a Netflix account in order to access this kind of content. Although Miguel did well in school and was enrolled in pre-Advance Placement classes, he did not consider himself academically engaged. During after school, he participated in two extracurricular activities, the Culinary Club and the Manga Club.
Sergio Martínez (18) was a 1.5-generation immigrant, a senior student at FHS, and identified as Mexican. He was born in Tampico, northeast of Mexico, grew up with his mother in a single parent household near San Jose, California, and moved to Austin, Texas, at the age of 15, right at the start of high school. In Austin, Sergio lived in the house of his older sister together with her husband and children, and shared a room with his mother in a remodeled garage. The language spoken at home was Spanish and the educational and occupational attainment of the household adults was low. Sergio's mother, for instance, had only completed elementary school in Mexico, did not speak English, and worked as a janitor in a local church. The Martinez family was slowly assimilating to the U.S. as a low-income working class family, moving upward by little steps. The younger members were enrolled in public schools and spoke English fluently and all the adults had menial jobs and worked hard even with two shits. Although Sergio's mother valued public education, given the family financial needs, she encouraged Sergio to get a job and to start contributing to the household economy.
Sergio was passionate about the visual arts, comedy, Internet culture, and American popular culture. He was engaged with alternative rock music, television comedy, and graphic design. His interest on comedy and visual arts converged on the topic of Internet memes and he had developed a thorough understanding of the typology and history of these media texts and even created few of them. He was an active user of Facebook, visited Reddit and 4Chan, watched movies and television shows online through Netflix, and spent lots of hours in YouTube listening to music videos and discovering new artists. At FHS, Sergio was positioned in the low-general track, and although he performed well enough to pass the tests and graduate, he was not engaged in schooling and found most of the classes boring with the exception of the electives related to technology and digital media. During after school time, in contrast, Sergio was very engaged in several programs that FHS offered such as the art honors society, the digital media club and the cinematic arts project. Participating in digital media extra curricular programs and taking elective technology classes helped Sergio to cultivate his interest in the creative arts and learn how to use multimedia-authoring software. At the end of his senior year he wanted to become a filmmaker and dreamed about going to prestigious film schools.