Sharing My First-Generation Story: Leana Yonan

Leana Yonan (BFA 2020)
Leana Yonan is a Chicagoan from Rogers Park. She is a first-generation Assyrian who makes work about her family’s history as immigrants/refugees from Iraq and how that defines her. Yonan works primarily with comics and animation and has recently found a way to integrate that with fibers. Read on to learn about her experience as a first-generation college student, and show your support on First-Generation Celebration Day, Wednesday, November 20.

Why was attending college important to you?
Attending college to me was important because I feel like this is my way of honoring my parents’ choice in coming to America. Growing up with immigrant/refugee parents, I’m sure a lot of kids in my shoes heard their parents say how grateful they should be to be born here. My parents leaving Iraq meant sacrificing their education, and going this far with my education is my way of thanking them for what they’ve done.

What made you want to attend college?
I attended Senn High School, studying in the fine arts program, and my teacher, an SAIC alum, signed me up for the School’s College Arts Access Program (CAAP) during its pilot year. It is a competitive program accepting only a few students in the city, and I was one of the lucky ones. Being in the CAAP program showed me that I can do what I love for a living.

How have you felt supported by SAIC?
SAIC makes me feel like all my wildest concepts are possible. I’ve never felt that my pieces were limited. My professors have also given me the support for life outside of SAIC and that itself has grounded me as an artist and as a person.