by Allan Tompkins
Immigration is a topic that many know of, but not many truly understand. Many kids at Columbus have close relatives who are immigrants, yet the struggle that those people went through is rarely discussed among our generation. The Encuentro Project is the perfect solution to this because it offers a complete insight into what really goes on in the world of immigration.
This experience to all grade levels in Columbus. It consists of a week-long trip to El Paso, Texas where students can participate in face-to-face interactions with immigration lawyers, immigration shelter volunteers, border patrol officials and even the immigrants themselves.
"It really was an eye-opening experience," said one of the moderators of the program, Mr. Hermida, "You really get to hear information from both sides of the parties"
The program is run by Mr. Hermida and Brother Al and is described by many to be life-changing.
"Not only did I learn so much more about our country and immigration, but I also got to make a bond with people in my school that I didn't know," said senior Nielsun Sanchez.
Throughout the experience, students create new friendships with some of the immigrants and listen to the stories of their hardships as well as cook and play games with them. They are shown how incredibly difficult it is to gain citizenship in this country and are also faced with the sad outcomes of many rejected immigrants.
"It opens your eyes to important issues that we don't see in our daily lives and, most importantly, you become more grateful for the blessings you have," Mr. Hermida said.
After experiencing The Encuentro Project, students' perspectives on life change. They become more grateful and realize how lucky we are to be born in a safe, protected country. At the same time, they also feel the duty to fix this problem in our country regarding immigration. Many rejected immigrants end up returning home to a dangerous environment where many face death due to the danger that they are trying to flee from.
The Encuentro Project is more than just a way to earn service hours, it is an experience that reveals the truth about immigration that many don't fully understand. Students are faced with problems that people are dealing with on a daily basis that are absurd to many. Yet along with all the sad and hard truths, there is a solution. Students can spend time with the immigrants, listen to their stories, and try and make a difference in their world. Even if that's simply by putting a smile on their face.
"I'm glad I was able to make some of the immigrants happier despite their sad stories," said Sanchez, "I don't regret the trip one bit and I would do it again in a heartbeat. It's a trip I will remember for the rest of my life."
That is exactly what the trip was designed for. It was meant to give students an eye-opening insight into the world of immigration but also to give them an experience that will be remembered for the rest of their lives - hopefully, so they can inspire some change.