UCR students bring messages of hope to North Park Elementary students

MCS students write encouraging messages in donated Guardian Ambassador books to North Park Elementary                                                                                                                        Courtesy of Eileen Tovar

On Monday, April 24, two students from the UCR organization, Guardian Ambassadors, traveled to San Bernardino’s North Park Elementary ― the site of the April 10 shooting of a teacher by her estranged husband in a domestic violence dispute ― to deliver books from the Guardian Princess series.

The books were written by UCR Media and Cultural Studies (MCS) Professor Setsu Shigematsu, who started the series after her daughter claimed that she “only liked the ‘white princesses.’” Taking that statement, Shigematsu set out to provide her daughter with diverse heroines that she “would want (her) to emulate.” She wrote the first book for her daughter’s fifth birthday with no intention to ever publish it, however, she was encouraged by parents at the party to pursue the book series further. After doing more research on children’s books, she learned that “only about 10% of children’s books have multicultural content.” Shigematsu’s goal is to “tell stories that don’t limit children’s potential and prescribe their ‘happily ever after.’ We need images that model cross-racial solidarity and inspire collective action so we work together to protect the planet for future generations.”

The Guardian Ambassadors are a group of UCR students that work to promote the goals of Shigematsu’s book series by abiding by their mission statement of encouraging “positive cultural, racial and gender diversity through children’s literature and the media.” In addition, their organization is also a source for networking, community service opportunities and outreach.

On Tuesday, April 11, one day after the tragic shooting at North Park, UCR MCS Professor Amalia Cabezas discussed with her students what they could do to help the elementary school students. She then suggested to her class that they could write messages of encouragement and support in the books that were to be donated to the school. They decided on the Guardian Princess books because Cabezas believes, “The books inspire children to be proactive and to seek non-violent resolutions to conflict.” Cabezas then contacted Shigematsu, who then agreed to donate the books. Cabezas added that “one of the students (in her class) brought a few of her own books to donate.”

Two UCR Guardian Ambassadors, Eileen Tovar and Bianca Smith, took the books to North Park on Monday, April 24. While they weren’t able to take the books directly to the students, the “secretaries (who took the books) seemed extremely happy.”

After donating the books, Tovar, a third-year public policy major said via the press release, “It breaks my heart that these students had to witness this horrific escalation of domestic violence. We want to show our support for these students and teachers and hope that through these stories they can find strength and healing.”

On Friday, May 26 and Saturday, May 27, the Guardian Ambassadors will be putting on “Princess Ten Ten and the Dark Skies: A New Musical.” The musical is based on Princess Ten Ten, who is the first Pan-Asian superheroine and first gender non-conforming princess to tackle issues involving bullying and air pollution.

Students who are interested in getting involved with the Guardian Ambassadors are encouraged to contact Tovar, the president of Guardian Ambassadors, at etova002@ucr.edu.

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