Rollins College and the HOPE CommUnity Center: A Legacy of Community Building

April 06, 2011



It takes approximately 30 minutes to travel the 15 miles from Rollins College to the HOPE CommUnity Center (HCC) in Apopka, but for the last three years, that stretch of roadway has connected two communities in a way that has left all involved inspired and encouraged.   

There’s something about HCC that has stirred a passion for making a difference in many members of the Rollins community. Founded in 1971, this community-based organization has focused on empowering Central Florida's immigrant and working poor communities, addressing critical issues of poverty and education in an ever-growing number of farmworkers and immigrant families residing in Central Florida.   

To celebrate the legacy of community building between Rollins College and the HOPE CommUnity Center, the Office of Multicultural Affairs has organized the Night of Hope and Diversity, an evening of performances and presentations by members of both the Rollins and HCC communities. Held in the Bush Auditorium from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, April 7, the event will showcase music, dance and poetry as well as feature a screening of Illegal Dreams and a presentation of Anna Montoya’s HCC photography series.   

“I invited our community partner Hope CommUnity Center to host their annual event, Night of Hope and Diversity, on our very own campus. The Night of Hope and Diversity is designed in partnership with HCC colleagues to demonstrate the young talent and rich heritage of our migrant/immigrant neighbors in Apopka,” said Director of Multicultural Affairs Mahjabeen Rafiuddin. “This evening is dedicated to our long and lasting partnership with HCC. We will continue to build on dreams and support migrant/immigrant youth, who have the hope of access and resources towards earning a college degree.”   

Capturing HOPE in Photography 

Anna Montoya (Class of 2013) was first introduced to HOPE CommUnity Center and its sister organization, the Farmworkers' Association, in 2009 as part of her RCC and volunteer work for SPARC Day.    

“The summer of 2010 was a pretty transformational summer for me,” Montoya recalled. “I attended various conferences such as National Conference on Race and Ethnicity, Leadershape and the Social Justice Training Institute. Through these experiences, I figured out that I was very passionate about issues pertaining to immigration and the Latin American community specifically.”   

By Anna Montoya

As part of Assistant Professor of Art Dawn Roe’s Photography II class, Montoya began to take a special interest in the Center. “Photography II is an advanced-level course that allows students the opportunity to work on a semester-long project of their choice, culminating in the production of a portfolio of 20 photographs that work together as a sequence or series,” Roe explained.   

“Anna chose to focus on the HOPE CommUnity Center and its history as well as its current place in the community,” said Roe. “She created a series of color, documentary style photographs that focused on capturing the essence of the Center's mission by expressing a sense of space and place of the surrounding area through her imagery.”   

Montoya began making weekly trips to HCC, each time photographing what she saw and telling its story through the images she captured. She experimented with re-photographing existing photographs, which gave her a glimpse into the Center’s four-decade-long history. Over the course of the semester, Montoya took thousands of pictures at the Center and at rallies.   

“The photos I took expressed the hope of the youth there,” Montoya reflects. Looking through her series, Montoya captures community, camaraderie and joy. She also creates a window into the world of advocacy and justice.   

Soon, Montoya’s relationship with HCC became more than taking photographs. “I attended CommUnity rallies and marches advocating for the DREAM Act to be passed,” Montoya shared.   

“While the project was very much about space and place as integral to our understanding of this organization and why their work is important; in this role my identity as activist, artist and student began to blur and I began to see many intersections in this kind of work.”   

That Montoya got an A on her project was a bonus. “The entire experience helped me to unlock my passion not only for photo journalism, but for ways in which media can assist community organizations such as HCC.”   

In the spirit of making a difference, Montoya donated her photographs to the Office of Multicultural Affairs to help it showcase its initiatives.   

A Movie that Made a Difference 

Sam Barns (Class of 2010), a Crummer student, felt a similar pull to HOPE CommUnity Center. “I heard the story about what the kids there had gone through, their issues with documentation, as well as education, culture and language barriers,” Barns shared. “I was touched by that. I started to work with them and also began showing my support at events.”   

Sam Barns filming Illegal Dreams

For his Critical Media and Cultural Studies (CMC) senior research practicum, Barns decided to create a film that would allow people to better understand the issues faced by Central Florida’s immigrant and farmworker communities.   

“I started going every week to do interviews with people at the Center,” said Barns. “I also traveled with them by bus to a big immigration rally in DC last year where around 150,000 were asking for immigration reform.”   

Barns used the footage from HCC and from the rally to create a 15-minute film he titled Illegal Dreams.  Inspired by the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (the “DREAM Act”), the film argues that media coverage of immigration in America focuses exclusively on the political and economic consequences of immigration while ignoring the human effects of U.S. policies.   

 "Illegal Dreams is among the very best work that has been produced in the history of our program,” said Professor of Critical Media and Cultural Studies Lisa Tillmann. “CMC takes seriously the Rollins mission of global citizenship and responsible leadership, and Sam embodies and lives that mission. His commitment to peace, equality and justice render him an ideal ambassador for the college.”   

Upon its completion, Barns was given the opportunity to debut his work at the 2010 Global Peace Film Festival

 Since then, Barns continues to make frequent visits to the Center, recently teaching a class on video production to a handful of teens. Like so many people who devote themselves to making a difference, the rewards are reciprocal. “This is an important cause. But I also got a lot out of it and I learned a lot.”   

"We see our friends at the HOPE Community Center as partners in education,” said Director of Community Engagement Micki Meyer. “Together, we fight for justice for farmworkers and educate the campus-community on ways to get actively engaged in these critical issues in Central Florida and beyond."        

By Kristen Manieri

Office of Public Relations & Community Affairs
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