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Seeking a New Life: The Immigrant Experience

The Office of Educational Leadership at the Stuart Center led a week-long program called Seeking a Different Life: The immigrant experience with a group of high school students from Convent of the Sacred Heart in Greenwich, Connecticut. Greenwich is a beautiful, pastoral setting bordering on urbanized suburbia and a short train ride to Manhattan. 

The topic of immigration is an extremely broad and complex one. This program explored the subject of immigration with particular focus on the following areas:

  • defining and refining the concept of borders (physical; social; and psychological);
  • understand the relationship between migration and immigration as well as voluntary and involuntary movement of people;
  • understanding the situation of unaccompanied minors;
  • impact of immigration on the workforce and the issue of wage theft;
  • impact of immigration law and ‘the wall’ on wildlife and the environment; and
  • direct service with Don Bosco Community Center in Port Chester.

The objective of the program was manifold.  It was designed to introduce and deepen students’ understanding of the complexity of immigration and migration;

  • Focus on the ‘topics of the day’ which students see and hear in the media;
  • Encourage a combined critical analytical and reflective approach to the human condition;
  • Deepen students’ sense of civic and Christian responsibility in taking a well-reasoned, compassionate approach; and
  • Apply the mission of Sacred Heart and the Five Goals of Sacred Heart education.

The students were particularly struck by certain points. In their own words:

~ I did not know “the wall” was an actual wall. It does not make sense to me that the US would fight to tear down the Berlin Wall, then build a wall of its own. 

~ I never thought about the environmental impact of the wall at the Mexico border.

~ This program really makes me what to reflect more on my own behaviors and attitudes, about how I think about people, act toward them. Even ignoring them or acting like they are not there is an action, and not one I can be proud of.  It makes me want to think about how I interact with staff here at my own school who come from other countries.

~ We live with so many borders, even here at school. I always think about borders as physical or political things. I never thought about the borders that are social and psychological, the ones that really separate and isolate.