“Back to Our Roots” Part I: Students share family cultural backgrounds

Though McNick is a way to relate Rockets to one another, many are rooted in different cultures from around the world. In a two-part series, the Milestone will share students’ stories filled with how their families continue to follow the culture of their backgrounds.

Aidan Guessford, Class of 2020

Junior Aidan Guessford’s grandmother on his mother’s side of the family immigrated from Italy and he added that Italian culture still has a strong presence in his family.

“My grandmother opened a bakery with my grandfather when she came over to the U.S. and settled in Lancaster, Ohio. A few times a year they have us over, and we have a traditional Italian meal. My entire family from my mother’s side, which is close to 30 relatives, comes over in one house and has a great time bonding over that small piece of Italian culture that my grandmother brought over with her,” Guessford said.

Guessford’s grandmother is from a little town in Southern Italy called Mola di Bari. Guessford shared that he will be going to Italy this summer and hopes to get as close as he can to where his grandmother was born. “Me and my family remain close to our roots by sharing quality time with one another and sharing stories and experiences with my grandmother. Every summer all my relatives and I share one house together and get this time to talk to one another and learn more about our culture and heritage,” Guessford said.

Aside from continuing authentic Italian meals, Guessford said his grandmother has also shared her strong faith with her family. “One thing that has stayed very true for my grandmother since she came over from Italy is her faith life. Growing up close to Rome she always felt a strong connection to Christ through Catholicism, and she didn’t want to lose that when she came over to the U.S., especially since she was only 16 and her faith wasn’t fully developed. However, she grew in her relationship with God and even raised all of her 7 children, my mom included, in accordance with her strong faith, which in turn has been passed down to me and my siblings,” Guessford added.


Senior Ximena Llamas (bottom left) sharing a meal with her family in Mexico City, Mexico.
Llamas last visited her family in December of 2018 to spend Christmas with them.

Ximena Llamas, Class of 2019

Senior Ximena Llamas is Mexican, Spanish, and Lebanese. “My great grandfather came from Lebanon on a ship to Mexico. When he got in the ship he didn’t know exactly what part of America it was going, but he decided to do so because there were no job opportunities in his country and it was unsafe. He decided to disembark in Mexico; he started in a business and married my great grandmother who was Mexican.”

Llamas grew up in Mexico City, the capital of Mexico, where she attended bilingual school. She had also visited Ohio annually to see her aunt who lives in Cincinnati. She left Mexico to live in America and continue her studies during the summer before her sophomore year in 2016. “It was probably one of the hardest and most painful decisions I’ve ever made. The first year didn’t hit me as hard as the following two because I loved the excitement of meeting new people and learning new things. Although I miss home all the time, the people I’ve meet here make it worth staying and enduring being away from home.” Llamas said.

She shared of the times she regretted coming to the states, and said, “My parents have always told me I could go back at any point, but they always help me see that this opportunity is going to open plenty of doors for me.”

Llamas said she attempts to keep her traditions in the states such as “celebrating important holidays have continued here. We actually get together with a group of Mexican friends to spend those holidays. My favorite is probably Dia de Muertos because we eat delicious sweet homemade bread to remember our loved ones who’ve passed away.” Llamas lives with her aunt, who has lived here for 19 years, and her aunt is her only family member who lives in another country outside of Mexico.


Thomas McDermott, Class of 2019

Senior Thomas McDermott has Japanese and Irish roots that his family strives to continue in the states. “My mother was born in Tokyo, Japan, and came to the United States in her mid-20’s for college. Obviously she stayed here, met my father, and got married. My great-grandfather came from Ireland to the United States when he was in the fourth grade. He came here, stopped schooling, and worked. My grandfather was born and raised in the Bronx and ended up moving down to Cincinnati,” McDermott said.

“My mother was always independent and decided to move to the states even though her parents wanted her to stay there. She moved to the United States and worked to be accustomed to the language and ways of life. She met my father in class during college after he got out of the U.S. Navy, and they began dating. They got married and moved from Vermont down to my father’s birth place, Cincinnati. My mother loved Cincy and wanted to raise her children here. We’ve been here ever since and go to visit Japan every now and then. My mother speaks regularly to her mother and visits about once a year. She loved Japan, but she loves America.”

He said his dad’s side of the family still listens to Irish music, especially since his aunt and uncle have an Irish band which his father sings for occasionally.   McDermott said his family also speaks a little Japanese in the house, makes Japanese food, and watches Japanese shows and movies. His grandma is still alive and lives in Japan. For his Irish side, they tell family history stores, sing and play Irish music in the house, cook Irish food and drink Irish beer. McDermott has visited Japan several times, but has not gone to Ireland yet.


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