As she finished up her undergraduate studies at Harvard, Laura Dravenstott went with her roommates to some on-campus interviews for practice.
The English major left with a job in business — and one that would forever alter the path of her life. She began her career as a trainer for a consulting company, helping new employees learn the computer systems.
It took her to Manila, Guam, Mexico City, Singapore and India.
“At the time, the travel exposed me to a part of the world I had no idea of — the poverty,” she said. “I remember riding in a bus in India and seeing people sleeping on top, under and all around these pipes. That aspect changed my life more than anything. And that’s what I write about.”
Dravenstott now has her master’s degree in creative writing from Regis University, taking her experience from abroad to craft stories.
She began volunteering in Arizona with detained immigrants and was encouraged to do the same in Denver.
After volunteering at a detention center in Aurora, she knew these immigrant stories had to be told. She now works with Casa De Paz in Aurora, talking to immigrants and writing fictionalized stories of their experiences.
Regis.edu sat down with Dravenstott to talk about her experience.
How did you get involved telling these stories?
I volunteered at the detention center as an English as a second language instructor. I had three lesson plans and would go to each pod once a week for three weeks. But I was limited in what I could do. I wasn’t encouraged to talk to the men and women or hear their stories. It was frustrating, so I stopped volunteering and started visiting with Casa De Paz. It’s a house across from the detention center that matches individuals with people that will come and visit them. I got to know some of them and I began to write fictionalized versions of their stories. I decided to do it as my capstone project at Regis.
Why are you passionate about this?
We have two biological children and one we adopted from Guatemala. When I volunteered in Arizona, I would see people being profiled. It hit really close to home and I had these intense personal reflections. The organization encouraged me to find the border in Denver. I want the stories to get out. The point for me is these are amazing people. They’ve overcome so many hurdles. They’ve all contributed and they’re all social justice-minded. Their stories are often misrepresented. I’m out to give these men and women an outlet for their story.
You have several chapters so far. Can you give us a glimpse into these stories?
It surprised me with truly how much some people in the world have to overcome. I met with a man from El Salvador. His mom was a guerilla fighter. At the time in El Salvador it wasn’t safe, so to keep her children safe she sent her 8- and 2-year-old to the streets of Mexico City. When he was 2, his 8-year-old sister became his mom. I can’t imagine doing that. People in this world have suffered and overcome the most incredible difficulties.
What’s next for these stories?
I’m not sure. I’d like to get them published and I’m looking at submitting them to some literary journals. I’m going to keep writing them for Casa de Paz. I think it’s important to get these stories out.
Find your passion with a creative writing degree from Regis.