NLC PTK Breaks Barriers


The Phi Theta Kappa chapter at North Lake Campus hosted the “Ask Me Anything” event to break barriers and stereotypes from Oct. 10 – 11.

The Phi Theta Kappa chapter Alpha Zeta Eta created the project to facilitate conversations about controversial and sensitive subjects.

“The idea for this project came from Janset, our VP of Leadership, inspired by a YouTube channel,” Christian Mpuhwe, Phi Theta Kappa recording officer, said, “Last year, we wanted to do a human library, but it didn’t work, so this is us, using the same metaphor of books and readers.”

Mpuhwe said a ‘book’ is a person open to share their story, and the ‘reader’ is someone who would flip through their pages.

“We wanted to break down barriers, so we decided to take out the element of a screen dividing the book and the reader,” Mpuhwe said.

Mpuhwe said that the idea also started to dismantle any preconceived notions about people based on their religion, sexual orientation, and ethnicity. The aim was to see the humanity in people and not judge them based on what they see and to facilitate genuine conversation between people.

The Alpha Zeta Eta chapter put up signs asking people to be respectful, and they explained that ‘readers’ have to be empathetic and understand the ‘books’ point of view and not judge them.

North Lake president Dr. Slejko was one of the books present during the event.

“I am a big fan of Phi Theta Kappa, and I loved the project concept from the beginning,” Dr. Slejko said.
She said that the whole process was an enjoyable experience. She talked about creating a book cover and asked herself what it is her and what people would like to hear about her.

“Sometimes we think that our stories are not that interesting to other people,” Dr. Slejko said, “So, for me, that was a good opportunity to think about it.”

She also said that there were some things she had never shared before, which was nerve-racking.

“This project gets people who are open and willing, and the next layer would be how to bring something like this to people that don’t know that they need it,” Dr. Slejko said. “And I love to see it happen every year and grow.”

North Lake student Madeleine Grace Cornejo was also a ‘book’ during the event. As a ‘book,’ Cornejo wanted to share her story and discuss mental health. Cornejo said it was a very sensitive topic but thought people needed to understand why she shared certain things.

Cornejo told ‘readers’ about the time living with her cousin for two years when she moved from Peru. She said that, unfortunately, she did not have the best experience and was emotionally abused by her cousin.

“I shared that I discovered certain copying mechanisms to learn what you cannot change, unfortunately,” Cornejo said. “It was hard to live with what you cannot change but should be.”

She was afraid that she would meet someone who would ask a question and then it would be awkward, and she wouldn’t know how to react.

Cornejo said one ‘reader’ told her they only wanted to talk to her because she was from Peru and not because of her story.

“It bothered me a little because when I signed up, my purpose was to talk about psychology and not Peru,” Cornejo said.

For Cornejo, it wasn’t tough to open up about her story. She said that over time she has learned that when you speak about things that make you feel bad, it helps you release and makes you feel better about it.

“When people share their struggles, you feel more accepted and vulnerable,” Cornejo said. “It doesn’t make you feel bad anymore.”

Mpuhwe said it was a challenge to bring participants and asked North Lake faculty and staff to talk about the project during classes.

“It was challenging to bring people to ‘books,’” Mpuhwe said. “We thought of having 50 books, but we ended up getting 30, which was less than we anticipated. We had to use many different strategies to get more people to come.”

Mpuhwe said that the outcome was a success; however, one of the readers was not being considered, and they asked why they don’t believe in God and their lifestyle. “I just assumed that everyone would be kind and understanding,” he said.