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This past June, nine high schoolers from Medfield and two chaperones travelled to both Tucson, AZ and Douglas, AZ on a mission trip organized by St. Edward Church and Frontera de Cristo (a border ministry located in the sister cities of Agua Prieta, Sonora, and Douglas, AZ). The unique purpose of the trip was a large part of what drew these students to the border. In going to the border themselves with open hearts and open minds, they hoped to discover more than what was reported on the national news; these young women hoped to build bridges.
With this unique mission in mind throughout their entire journey, these nine high school students were able to gain a new understanding of life on the border through interacting with people of varying experiences, positions, and viewpoints on both the border and immigration as a whole. During their week-long stay in Arizona, students were able to hear the stories of individuals who had been affected by the border in different ways: a woman from South America who was placed in a U.S. immigration detention center after being a victim of human trafficking; an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, who is now mayor of Douglas, AZ, a border town; a faith-filled man who was a lead organizer in the Sanctuary Movement and an Underground Railroad system for assisting immigrants who were in grave danger in crossing the border into the United States; members of CREDDA, a rehabilitation center in Agua Prieta; a representative from Cafe Justo, a coffee company created to address poverty and migration between the U.S. and Mexico; and two officers of the United States Border Patrol (the officers reminded the group that their job is to enforce the law of the land and that if citizens wanted to change these laws, they need to elect people who will change them).
These individuals were among the many people students were able to hear and learn from.
The students were also able to participate in meaningful activities to better enhance their understanding of life and realities along the border. These included activities such as: volunteering at Casa Alitas, an immigration center in Tucson, AZ; participating in a cross planting ceremony out in the desert with the School Sisters of Notre Dame; and taking part in the Healing Our Borders Prayer Vigil in Douglas, AZ.
In addition, perhaps one of the most meaningful moments of the mission trip for the students was simply seeing the border itself. It was in this moment that these students were truly able to see the border not as an image on the television or a news article, but as a real object that stands between two countries and between two groups of human beings.
Each of these moments, activities, and the people they met allowed these students to gain a new perspective of life on the border and helped them better understand immigration and the border in ways they could never have known without making the decision to seek these truths out for themselves. For these students, one of the most lasting impacts of visiting the border was something they never knew they would discover.
Even though the mission trip has ended, these nine high school students know that their mission is far from over.