College student organizes picnic to encourage acceptance

Latino immclay venetisigrants will share their stories at Saturday even.

Clay Venetis believes the way to accept differences in opinion is to discuss them.

On Saturday Venetis and two friends will host a community picnic at Conejo Creek Park North in Thousand Oaks, where men and women who’ve come to California from Mexico and Central and South America will share personal stories about their immigration experiences.

The event, which begins at 12:30 p.m., will include food, music and local speakers whom Venetis has met through area acquaintances, churches and social justice programs.

The Boston College student, who grew up in Thousand Oaks, is dedicating his summer vacation to creating conversations between Latino immigrants and other local residents as part of the college’s Guestbook Project, which promotes investigations of themes such as the citizen and the alien, the host and the stranger.

Venetis said he was inspired to explore immigration by Richard Kearney, a Boston College professor and director of the Guestbook Project, who is “deeply involved in the subject.”

“I’m (drawn to) the social justice aspect of it. It poses deep ethical questions that I’m really interested in,” Venetis said.

The project opens a window into one of the country’s most contentious topics—illegal immigration.

According to a recent report by the National Conference of State Legislatures, legislators in every state and Puerto Rico introduced a record number of bills or resolutions relating to immigrants or refugees in the first six months of 2011.

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