Meet Saribel

2022 Friendship Games Ambassador from Chicago

July 28, 2022

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Saribel FG Ambassador 2

My full name is Saribel Barrera. You pronounce it with the Latin accent. You got to roll your tongue for my last name. But I know not everyone can do that, so I also accept the “american” way. I also go by Sari, it’s sort of short for Saribel. 


I was born in Chicago, IL to Mexican immigrant parents (now citizens due to my brother’s association with the U.S. army). I’ve lived on the south side of Chicago (Roseland) all my life. I have two brothers and one sister and sometimes they look like the smartest people to me, lol. 


I play various sports like soccer, softball, BASKETBALL , flag football, etc. I am soccer captain for the “Lady Challengers,” in other words for Carver Military Academy’s WL Varsity Soccer. My team made it to regionals then went on to State but unfortunately lost. I’ve been playing soccer for almost all my life but stopped due to reasons. Something unique about how I live is that it’s very unusual for me to be doing things like various sports, going to boot camp and going out of State for opportunities like these, because I break all the stereotypes that have been put on First Generation Mexican American Women. 

 

Where I live there are 4 rows of blocks that’s strictly Hispanic people and crossing a bridge breaks a barrier. Where I live there’s not too many teenagers that are school focused but I am because my family is very conservative and take their education very seriously and because my parents left everything behind for my siblings and I to have a chance at the American Success Dream. That’s my life so far !!

Q: What's the one thing that you'd want people to know about you?

One thing I want people to know about me, I'm very quiet. Sometimes I may come off as rude because I may seem not energetic or into the conversation, but that's just me because I'm a little shy.

Q: Do you have a special talent that most people don't know about?

I can juggle a soccer ball [a soccer/football specific skill where you keep the ball off the ground using your feet]. I’m also bilingual - I can speak Spanish and English

Q: Who's your hero? Why?

I have to say my heroes are my parents because they moved from a different country just so I could have a better life in a different country.

Q: What do you think are the most important attributes of a leader?

You have to think for yourself, and what's better for the people who may follow behind you. Try not to get influenced by other people just because a bunch of people are doing the same thing. You shouldn't be influenced. You should be guided by your own choices.

Q: What are you most looking forward to about Friendship Games?

Meeting people from a different country because I've never met a person from a different country other than America. Hearing more about their [other youth participants] culture and the way they live their everyday lives, like the way they dress and their daily routines. Because I know I have my own routines, they have to have different routines from America, for sure.

Q: Will it be your first time on an airplane? In another country? If so, what are you looking forward to about visiting another country? How do you feel about traveling abroad without your family?

No, it won't be my first time on an airplane, I had the opportunity to see my brother’s military graduation in San Antonio, Texas. And no, it won’t be the first time traveling in the United States without my parents; the last time was when I went to the [PeacePlayers] United States Regional Friendship Games in 2019. We went to Detroit! I am excited but nervous to travel without my parents/family. I heard we're going to be on a plane for like 13 hours. So and I'm assuming for those 13 hours, I won't really have any contact with my family. And that's like the longest I've ever not had contact with them. I’ve spent time without my family before when I’ve gone to bootcamp.

Q: Is there anything you're nervous or unsure about going to the Friendship Games?

Probably the language barrier. I don't want to, like, accidentally offend nobody for not understanding them clearly or attempting to say stuff in their language and it coming out wrong.

Q: Why do you think PeacePlayers wants to bring together 130 young people from around the world?

I think they're trying to choose people from the South Side of Chicago because they don't get out of Chicago much, and don’t have many opportunities to get out. So that's probably one of the reasons why. Another reason is to show those few kids from your city or whatever that there's more people out there that may not look the same as us; so they won't be like closing their own bubble and they can explore different diversity.

Q: If you could do anything you wanted when you grew up, what would it be/what's your biggest dream for the future - for yourself, for your family, for your community?

For myself, becoming the most successful FBI agent in America. For my family, I'll say that we all move out of Chicago. I hope that they move to the places they want to be because I know my sister, her dream is to live in New York; then my brother's dream is to live in Canada, and the other one is to live in Texas. So I hope they all get that. For my neighborhood, they break the divide we have now between Mexican Americans and African Americans. My neighborhood is affiliated with gangs. On one side, it’s ruled by Latin Kings and on the other side it’s ruled by, perhaps, GD [Gangster Disciples] or whatever. And there's a literal bridge that breaks the barrier where they can’t step over there and they can’t step over here.

Q: What's it like in your city/town/neighborhood? How would you describe it to someone who's never been there?

Chicago is very diverse and Roseland is very conservative. What I mean by conservative is like, they put each other to high standards. In Roseland itself, there's a main street in front of my block and there's a school on the side of the main street, and there's a bunch of graffiti everywhere. Tall buildings, up to date houses because our neighborhood recently got renewed. So most of our houses are new. Lots of alleys. Lots of porches with chairs, where people stand outside. And a park. And a bridge that leads to 117 St., which is the African American side, you could say.

Q: If you could time travel for one hour, where would you go? What would you do?

My final days of eighth grade. So I can graduate again and actually have, like, an actual graduation because the pandemic took that away from me.

We followed up with Saribel during the Games to hear about her experience in real time. Here’s what she had to say! 

Q: So what's the most important thing you learned this week?

The most important thing I learned this week was that even though people have differences that shouldn't get in between your bonds you build with them.

Q: And have you made any friends this week? Like, have you made any friends from other sites? If so, what do you like about them? What do you feel you have in common with them?

I made a lot of friends this week from all different sites, like the girls from Brooklyn. I didn't know any of them, but they all listen to the same music I do. And then the people from South Africa. I didn't know they listened to American music and started asking me about all these American artists and even some that are from Chicago, asking me if I know them. And I was surprised because I thought only Chicagoans or Americans listened to that type of music and, well, basketball, we have that in common.

Q: And how did it feel like when they were bringing up some Chicago artists to like you, a little bit of hometown pride?

Yeah, it made me happy. I was able to tell them about it and I was able to even share more American music with them that I think they would like. And they did. And they even asked me what my ethnicity was, and I told them I was Hispanic and they got excited. They were like, “Oh, you have to teach me Spanish, you have to teach me Hispanic music.” And I gave them a playlist and they were happy. And that made me happy because they appreciate my culture and my background.

Q: What do you think is the potential of bringing together young people from all over the world who have something in common but are very different from one another. What do you think can happen? What is the power in that?

The power of bringing many kids from different cultures and backgrounds together could be big. And the fact that we share many things in common and we don't look nothing alike, we're not from the same places – can really have an impact on their mindset that there's other people in the world that could be just like you and you could be friends with them no matter their background, culture, city, religion.

Q: So what have you enjoyed most about the last week? What's been the most fun?

The thing I've enjoyed most was… I'll say the food truck party, because I really got to talk to a lot of people that day, and also the Dead Sea part, because that day we swam in the Dead Sea and I didn't think I could actually float. So that was a fun experience because I never experienced anything like that.

Q: Do you think that as young people you have a special power? Are there things that you can do that maybe for older people it might be a little harder to do? Like is there something unique about being a young person in being able to make change or do positive things?

As a young person, I feel like we have the power to teach the next generation to be more open minded rather than the older generation. Because I feel like the older generation could be so closed minded sometimes. And I feel like we could have a big change in the world.

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