CHS Student Jayla Sheffield Appears in New York Times


On Nov. 12, 2019, the New York Times published an article detailing how quinceañeras are now celebrations of many different cultural identities. These new quinceañeras, as the New York Times reports, are straying away from the old rules and redefining the meaning and purpose of this important event. Jayla Sheffield, a CHS sophomore, was at the center of this article, with pictures and descriptions of what she and her mom called a “Quincenegra,” where they would celebrate her Afro-Latina background while also honoring the traditions of a quinceañera. But for Sheffield, the process started long before Nov. 12. It started weeks earlier when a New York Times reporter contacted her mother.

“When I first heard that they wanted to write about me, I didn’t believe my mom at all,” Sheffield said. “I thought she was playing a joke like she usually does.”

But it was true. The reporter, Walter Thompson-Hernández, had reached out to the family through connections to the party planner organizing the quinceañera. From this point, Jayla was able to witness the reporting process first hand.
“We were getting our nails done one day and they came, the photographer and the journalist. I couldn’t believe it was real,” Sheffield said.

Sheffield described the staff’s process, explaining that they were dedicated and thorough. They were reporting on quinceañeras that mixed different cultural traditions. Sheffield was featured along with Armina Sherif Hamza from Bakersfield whose quinceañera was also a celebration of her Muslim faith. The reporter and photographer were present in the days leading up to and during the event as they interviewed participants, took pictures during late night dance practices, and they of course attended Sheffield’s quinceañera. Sheffield also mentioned that the reporter’s own heritage gave him a special interest in this topic.

“He himself is Mexican and Black, so when he heard that I was going to do a quinceañera as an Afro-Latina, it was a story he could really resonate with,” Sheffield said.

The entire experience had a big impact on Sheffield who respected and appreciated how dedicated Thompson-Hernández was throughout the reporting and writing process. He also further inspired her to pursue journalism as a potential career in the future.

“His process was wanting to get every single detail, and for me it was good exposure because I want to be a journalist when I grow up,” Sheffield said. “It was a really cool surprise to see that it was young people, who are a part of our culture and our issues, writing about these things. It gives me hope that one day if I want to write, I know that I don’t have to be a certain age.”

This unique experience allowed Sheffield to share her story while also giving her an inside look into the world of professional journalism.