Academic News, Campus Ministry

2016 Nogales Border Immersion Trip

“This experience has changed all of our lives. I think that every one of us that went on this five-day trip came back a little different. There is no price you can put on an experiential learning experience like the trip we took to Nogales.” — Spanish teacher Dena Stock-Marquez

This year, the Spanish department teamed up with Campus Ministry to provide a new immersion experience for 13 of our Spanish 4, AP, and Honors Spanish students. November 6-11, students traveled to Nogales, Sonora, and stayed at Hogar de Esperanza y Paz (HEPAC) to practice their Spanish skills, learn more about the human side of immigration and border crossing, and to walk alongside families living in Mexico and those working to cross the border. Activities included joining children in lessons and games at the community center, hiking to place water on the Mexico border for migrants, meeting migrants at various shelters in the area, and eating in the homes of generous community members who volunteer with HEPAC. Simply put, the experience was nothing short of inspiring.

Spanish teachers Dena Stock-Marquez and Shannon Sonn accompanied Maura Timoney on this trip. Below are a few reactions from parents and staff after the trip concluded.

Dena Stock-Marquez elaborated that, “This experience gave all of us a firsthand experience of what is occurring daily on our border.  It was especially fun to see our students interacting with the children and youth at HEPAC, and learning that no matter where you are in the world, all children (old and young) love to have fun playing games like Simon Says and jump rope.”

Kari Tunstill, parent of Avery Tunstill (’18), one of the student-participants, said in the days after we returned, “This experience has been pivotal in her growth as an informed, concerned citizen. Last night we were all finally home from all of our trips and had a chance to debrief her experience.  It was amazing how knowledgeable she is about the issues around immigration, and passionate she is about finding more dignified solutions.”

All thirteen of our students who participated were able to share how the experience affected them in a final reflection on the last evening. Collectively students agreed the trip changed their perspective on life at the border. More than one student noted that prior to the trip family and friends worried for her safety and security. After experiencing the warm welcome and compassion of the community members in Nogales, students realized that stereotypes are not always accurate and that human interaction is the key to understanding people better. They have committed to continued meetings after the trip, sending care-packages throughout the year, and raising funds to help with the ongoing programming HEPAC does for local children.

Students will be presenting their experience to their peers during a service dedicated to our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12, as well as a longer presentation on the impacts from a social-science perspective in late January. Their eagerness to share what they have learned is palpable and inspires hope in the staff members.

When asked to describe the trip, instructor Shannon Sonn said, “The experience in Nogales brought into sharp relief the intimate connection between our country’s economic, environmental, drug and immigration policies which, I think, because of their complexity, we tend to separate artificially in our minds. Only holistic reform can address effect change here in the US and within neighboring nations. The most important part of the trip, however, was the view of the human face of the immigration debate. Our common humanity transcends geographical borders, and we must keep the catholicity of our humanity in the forefront as continue to fight for a more just and peaceful world. And I think our girls are better prepared to do just that.”