The student news site of Los Medanos College


The student news site of Los Medanos College


The student news site of Los Medanos College


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LMC honors student rewarded at Stanford symposium

Inspired by a love for dance
After winning her award, Valeria Navarro smiles for the photo with her parents.

The walls were surrounded by silence, yet applause erupted as Valeria Navarro’s name was announced and the room beamed with cheers of support. From the hundreds of participants in attendance at the Honors Research Symposium, Navarro’s unique presentation based on a story she loves and a style of dance never done before, later rewarded her with the Katherine Award in addition to a $100 scholarship.

The Bay Honors Consortium hosted its annual student conference May 6, which showcased work from over 350 community college honors students across California campuses. Students presented their research material at Stanford, which also had a variety of activities available for participants. Four Los Medanos College honors students, both past and present, were chosen for the event: Lorenzo Naveles, Lance Quinones, Valeria Navarro and Neil Cruz.

As presentations progressed, nerves fluttered in Navarro’s stomach; she felt she “was holding [her] breath the whole day long.” It was not until the end of the session that Navarro felt she could finally “let it go” after her presentation and reflect proudly on that experience with a smile.

Inspired by her love for dance and literature, Navarro created a moving presentation on the philosophical interpretation of “The Metamorphosis,” a novella written by Franz Kafka. It captures the sibling relationship and life experiences between characters Gregor and Grete Samsa.

Navarro’s analysis showcased an interpretative self-choreographed dance lasting four minutes. Which delved into her character of focus, Grete, and her journey from youthful innocence to the maturity of womanhood.

She began to ask herself questions surrounding this character’s journey. “When I was looking into this project, I wanted to focus on [Grete] being a woman,” said Navarro, “What does it mean in this society, and something that came up was the theory of facticity and how it illustrated how human freedom is ultimately limited and illusory.”

With 17 years of experience in ballet, contemporary and tango, this was Navarro’s first time choreographing a solo performance. She was taken out of her comfort zone of performing to the music, and into a performance based on the interpretation of a story. After hours of practice, Navarro captured the despair and struggle Grete faced in her transition to adulthood, visible through the expressive steps of her routine.

“When I first started to dance, it was more small steps, more jumping, more twirls and spins, but then as [Grete] became an adult it’s more despaired, you can see it through my facial expressions. And when I dance, [the steps] become more heavy,” described Navarro, “I used the door in the room to illustrate that physical barrier to her freedom. [Grete] keeps looking at the door, she keeps pushing to reach the door, but it’s impossible.”

Navarro was first introduced to Kafka’s novella when she was assigned the reading in her 12th-grade English class and “since then [she] always remembered the story.” It tackles themes of alienation and self-transformation. Stuck at home, caring for her two younger brothers, all while growing and maturing as a person, Navarro could connect from the isolation she felt during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To bring her interpretation of the story to life, Navarro sought guidance from her two mentors, Professors Edward Haven and Jennifer Saito. She described their support as “everything for the project,” because together, they were able to mold her high school essay into a winning college-level presentation.

“Valeria Navarro’s project was just brilliant; it combined philosophical inquiry with moving choreography and a stunning performance,” said Saito. “She was a joy to work with because she’s very organized and humble and she has the self-discipline of someone who has studied ballet for years. We’re so proud of her.”

Participating in the symposium was not something Navarro believed would amount to much, but her strong support system challenged her to try something new. Navarro believes other students should take advantage of the opportunity as well.

Navarro said her piece of advice would be to “find yourself good mentors,” and adding, “let those doubts, any nerves, let them go because they don’t belong here. You can do this.”

At the end of fall, Navarro will graduate and plans to attend UC Santa Cruz to finish her English degree and minor in dance. She hopes to explore new ways to create dance interpretations of books, write her own novels, and even explore a possible career in teaching. Her drive for creativity inspires Navarro to turn her passions into career opportunities for the future.

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Aliyah Ramirez
Aliyah Ramirez, Editor-in-Chief

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