The First Somos Carolina Summer

Elaine Townsend Utin
Published in
3 min readNov 21, 2019


The idea of Somos Carolina came from a lingering question.

Would our journeys be different if we had critically thought about our Latinx identity and how it factored into our roles as learners and leaders… in middle school?

Perhaps, our voices would have been woven into the fabrics of our rural North Carolinian towns. Maybe we would have perceived our identities and cultures as assets and rejected the notion that they were deficits.

Rarely seen photos of LatinxEd Co-Founders (Elaine & Ricky) in their high school years

Our critical consciousness about being Latinx leaders and scholars in the South started to evolve in college. But, we imagine our earlier experiences would have been much more positive if we had had a stronger connection to our roots, history, and culture in school settings. So, our team hit the drawing board to develop a program that provided support, growth, and community to Latinx students as they figure out their purpose and place in North Carolina.

Day #1 of 2018 Somos Summer

Created with the intention to nurture the hearts and minds of young people, Somos Carolina welcomed its first cohort of 48 Latinx middle school students from Lee County, NC. In partnership with Cary Academy, students participated in three weeks of workshops and discussions surrounding our key pillars: Latinidad, Learning, and Leadership.

In small groups or casas, Somos Scholars created their individual and shared definitions of what it means to be Latinx, immigrants, learners, leaders… Together, we told our stories of growing up Latinx in the South and shared the dreams that have been inspired by our family’s immigrant journeys.

Our first Somos Summer was educational, motivational, and the beginning of a new familia. Students and instructors walked away from this summer having witnessed something powerful — a catalyst in Latinx identity formation. We felt an urgency to keep unpacking the difficult and complex histories of our community. We felt a hunger to keep dreaming of our futures and aspirations. We felt a longing to keep building community with new and old friends and neighbors.

Co-Instructors (Brenda & Gladys) leading their casa — Pride Rock

This transformative experience was made possible by our amazing instructors. From UNC-Chapel Hill to North Carolina State University, from undergraduates to alumni, from novice to certified teachers, our instructors came from a wide variety of backgrounds, but they had one main vision in common — a passion for embracing and fostering Latinx identity. Working alongside a fellow co-instructor, young professionals (majority self-identifying as Latinx) played pivotal roles in creating community by ensuring the care of our students and facilitating key conversations about being Latinx in the South.

2018 Somos Carolina Instructor Cohort

That being said, we are already preparing for Somos Summer 2020. Do you have the same passion for serving Latinx students? If so, we hope you join us. We have 16 paid instructor positions this year, and we hope you might be one of them. Click here to learn more and make sure to apply by January 5th, 2020 (Priority Deadline) or January 19th, 2020 (Final Deadline).