A Voice that Travels
By: Kristen Grom
For junior communication and ethnic studies major Jamie Salazar, spoken word is an art. The El Paso, Texas, native embarked on a 27-hour journey last year to Bowling Green State University to continue her education and her love of speech.
“BG made me feel like they’d take me somewhere”
Salazar’s relationship with BGSU began when she competed against the University in a forensics event as a member of the El Paso Community College team. There, BSGU coach Paul Alday noticed her talent and approached her. Fast forward, and Alday assisted Salazar and two of her El Paso teammates to receive scholarships to continue their education at BGSU.
Salazar reflected, “Leaving [El Paso] was never really an option in my community or for my family. But Coach Alday convinced me that speaking in front of a crowd could take me places.”
Other schools also recognized Salazar’s talents, offered her scholarships and tried to persuade her to join their universities, but BGSU stood out to her. “BG made me feel like they’d take me somewhere,” she recalled.
Salazar has become a prominent player in the speech and debate arena. She holds the title of state champion in Rhetorical Criticism and Dramatic Interpretation. Additionally, she is fifth in the nation in Persuasive Speaking. Despite her obvious talent, Salazar used to believe her gift with words was a dead end. That all changed when BGSU became a part of her life. “BGSU has helped me understand that there are opportunities for me to use my voice.”
While researching those opportunities, she received help from BGSU adviser Bob Kline. When asked about her experiences with him and the transfer process, she lights up. “Every single one of my credits transferred. Bob was always there to answer questions over email or phone.”
Dr. Apollos Nwauwa, her African Cultures and Society instructor, and Dr. Anne Mitchell, her Women of Color instructor, have both had a positive impact on Salazar’s educational career. “Apollos Nwauwa challenged me to look at things differently and inspired me to use my talent. Anne Mitchell found the words that made me go ‘ooooo.’”
It’s hard to believe that just a year ago, Salazar wasn’t planning on continuing her education after receiving her associate degree in communication and ethnic studies at El Paso Community College. Now, she plans on graduating from BGSU with a bachelor’s degree in the spring of 2016. Her outlook on education changed once she attended school at BGSU.
“I began to understand how much I didn’t know and how much opportunity there is to know more.”
Learning has become a prominent aspect of Salazar’s life. Science and mathematics were never her strongest areas, but the power of her voice was a whole different story. In fact, Salazar said, “I’m only good at two things in life: meeting people and talking. There’s something about people listening to me. . . .”
Her love for communication has even become a sort of fixation. “I’m obsessed with how words can connect different people and allow them to understand one another. Words have the ability to make people say ‘oooo.’””
The ability to make another person see a differing perspective at a specific time, that “Aha! moment,” is something she strives for. “Anyone can say ‘I have a dream.’ But Martin Luther King Jr. said those words at the right time and brought people together.”
Ohio has been a bit of a culture shock for her. “Once I committed to BGSU, I realized I didn’t really know where Ohio was on the map, or even the neighboring states.” When she finally made the trip to Bowling Green, she realized just how far her voice was taking her. “About 15 hours into my drive to BG, it hit me. I wasn’t even halfway there yet.” That was the moment reality set in.
Since coming to BGSU, she’s adapted to the Ohio lifestyle. Back home, she lives five minutes from the Mexican border. One of her first lessons in Ohio culture was language. “I’m used to speaking a mix of Spanish and English,” she said. Adjusting to the Midwestern slang has been enlightening. “We have never used ‘pop’ to describe a drink.”
Naturally, one of the biggest contrasts is the climate. Salazar has fallen in love with the changing of the seasons. She loves being able to “watch time progress.” According to her, she will never live anywhere that doesn’t have seasons again. One aspect of the four seasons she wasn’t expecting was the snow. “In El Paso, snow is this magical thing that happens at night and is gone before noon.” This year, she is more prepared with a recently purchased heavy jacket. As fall comes to a close, she is in awe at how much snow Bowling Green already has — even though the grass only flaunts a mere dusting.
After graduating from BGSU, Salazar hopes to further her education with a master’s degree after serving in the Peace Corps. “I’m going to be able to help people by immersing myself in their community. I’ll use what I’m good at to serve my country.” The spoken word extraordinaire hopes to eventually become a United States diplomat. In the meantime, she continues to use her own voice as a tool to create that “ooo” moment.