This summer Student.Go personnel have served in 19 locations around the world. Emory University student, Amy Beth Willis, worked with CBF field personnel Greg and Sue Smith and LUCHA Ministries, serving among Latino immigrant families in the Fredericksburg, VA area.
This summer, I had the opportunity to work with and to mentor a wonderful group of Latino youth, ages 11-17 in Fredericksburg, Virginia. My fellow intern, Jessie, and I provided activities for these youth and served as a listening ear. We took them to camp, went to the swimming pool and worked together at the local food bank. Through these experiences, I learned about the obstacles the Latino community faces in the United States, the greatest of which is their legal status. About half of the teenagers I worked with were brought to the United States as children. Therefore, they do not have legal papers to be here. We tend to romanticize the teenage years, but the teens I worked with experience a different kind of adolescence. Without papers, they can’t get a driver’s permit or a license. If they want to get a job, it has to be somewhere that doesn’t check for social security numbers. If they want to go to college, they need enough money to pay 2-3 times the normal tuition rate for being international students. They live each day knowing that everything could be taken away within minutes if Immigration Services comes knocking at their door. So often this summer, it was clear to me the importance of breaking the status quo for the sake of compassion and love. I want to believe that everyone’s political ideology about illegal immigration would change if they also had the opportunity to put faces, names and stories to otherwise cold statistics. At the beginning of the summer, we asked the youth to write down their goals, hopes, and dreams for their lives. Some responses were silly and some were serious, like any average group of 11-17 year olds. But, for some of these youth, their lack of legal status stands in the way of their dreams. It will continue to create obstacles as they seek opportunities to succeed in this country, if we never change our ideologies or politics. I am grateful for the opportunity to look through a different set of lenses and to open my heart to people’s struggles. Because this is where breaking the status quo begins—learning to see, understand, and act with the eyes and heart of Jesus.