IMMIGRATION WITH EMPATHY

Share this article with a friend.

April 27, 2021

For information on enrollment and registration at Notre Dame, please visit the admissions section of our website here.

Notre Dame Prep, Marist School (Atlanta) students explore U.S. border challenges in virtual exchange program.

The plight of immigrants was displayed in a powerful virtual immersion experience attended by students both at Notre Dame Prep and the Marist School in Atlanta earlier this month. Hosted in partnership with Borderlinks, an educational organization focused on immigration awareness, the one-day program was designed to explore the theme of migration as well as deepen students’ understanding of the broader context of the Mexican-U.S. border.

Students began by looking at a history timeline of immigration, key issues, and legislation in the United States before listening to a brief presentation led by Fr. Jim Strasz, s.m., who shared Marist perspectives on immigration and the importance of a Marist presence in the world.

“At Notre Dame, our educational tradition is rooted in the Marist ethos that has three aims: to work with God in forming Christian people, upright citizens and academic scholars. We tend to excel in the third of these aims, namely academic scholars. This is borne out by the numbers of our graduates who have gone on to many good universities and colleges. But in the mind of Fr. Jean-Claude Colin, who gave us these aims, he always ranked the academic in last place and as the servant to the first two,” Strasz said.

For Colin, the goal of a Marist education was to help students become the person God made them to be and live in a lasting relationship with God.

“That relationship with God is not something that exists only between God and oneself. Rather, we are by our nature social beings and our existence is tied to the people and world we live in,” Strasz said. “Being a good and upright citizen is the way to make that relationship with God concrete in one’s life. St. Matthew in his gospel places it centrally before us when he tells us that at the end of our lives, the question God will ask is not how many academic honors we achieved or even how well we did economically, rather in the light of eternity we will be asked what we for each other especially ‘the least of our brothers and sisters.’”

Throughout the morning, students engaged in a computer simulation, where they were assigned immigrant status and had to navigate their way through the legal process.

“It was very challenging and for many discouraging to find out they would be denied, or the process would take 15 or more years,” said NDP campus minister Della Lawrence.

Students also heard firsthand accounts from a real-life immigrant who escaped danger to come to the United States. They also heard from an individual who started his own community organization to support immigrants find dignified work. Students were able to dialogue with the speakers to find out more about their experiences. Then both schools brainstormed ideas for action steps in their own local communities and shared their ideas in a roundtable discussion. Students agreed to reconnect in the future to share what they are doing to address the immigration question.

“The border simulation was a good opportunity for some of our students working alongside another Marist school and some of their students to go on a ‘mission trip’ be it virtual and to learn from others what they are experiencing in that place. There is so much to learn about on the southern border of the country and from many different perspectives. In doing this we send them on a mission—and we asked them to take the Marist tradition as they know it to learn about a group of people,” Strasz said. “From this experience with an enriched education about the situation they can then use that knowledge to do two things: advocate and to do something very concrete to help.

Ninth grader Grace Simon said she truly enjoyed participating in the virtual experience.

“It was nice talking to the Marist School in Atlanta and learning what they have done about the subject. I also liked listening to the immigrant stories. It also made me figure out what I can do to help this important problem,” she said.

Junior Rita Twal, who helped organize the event at Notre Dame Prep, said she too enjoyed hearing the immigrant stories.

"It’s one thing to hear about immigration issues from social media and news reporters, but it’s a whole different thing learning about real and raw stories of struggles that immigrants face, from a refugee. Immigrants do not all face the same issues and struggles, so hearing from this individual about their own struggles made for a more insightful and unique learning experience," Twal said. "What hit home with me personally during this experience is that more people experience these daily immigration struggles than we realize. You could be standing next to a person in a grocery store, and not know that this person is currently seeking asylum, escaping a very corrupt and dangerous country or government, and having to adapt to a completely new environment and culture."

Twal said after attending the program, she and her fellow students have begun to make action plans, such as holding a backpack drive to fill up bags with everyday necessities, and send them off to people living on the border. She is also planning a walk to raise awareness about immigration issues, and about injustices and inequalities that refugees, immigrants, and migrants experience.

 

For information on enrollment and registration at Notre Dame, please visit the admissions section of our website here.

Comments or questions? dlai@ndpma.org

Follow Notre Dame on Twitter at @NDPMA.

About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy
Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. Notre Dame Preparatory School enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower schools enroll students in pre-kindergarten through grade eight. All three schools are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the National Association of Independent Schools. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school’s home page at www.ndpma.org.