CRS Ambassadors educate Cabrini High School students on immigration

By Katherine Briante
May 4, 2016

Cabrini College and High School CRS Immigration Simulation 3.22.16 Photo: Tyler Kaufman/�2016
Photo by Tyler Kaufman

It’s 3 a.m. on Saturday, March 19 at Cabrini College. I’m rolling out of bed, gathering my backpack and suitcase and piling into a car with my professor and two other CRS Ambassadors so we can catch our 6 a.m. flight to Louisiana.

There are seven of us, five ambassadors and two faculty advisers, and we’re flying to New Orleans so we can meet with students from Cabrini High School, a CRS Global High School, and present our Refugees Seeking Safety simulation to educate the students about the issue of unaccompanied minors traveling from Central America.

Refugees Seeking Safety is an award-winning simulation that was created by Cabrini College students as a class project but has since been expanded into a larger model for other schools to use. The simulation is supposed to recreate a bit of what it’s like for unaccompanied minors to travel from Central America to the United States as they flee increasing gang violence in their home countries.

The CRS Ambassadors took on the main roles in the simulation but a group of the high schoolers who were a part of the CRS club (called CRS Krewe) joined in. They played gang members, the first obstacle that participants encounter on their “journey.” The Krewe members, although they were nervous at first to be “intimidating” and to “rob” their friends, really loved getting a chance to be a part of the simulation. Even though they played roles in one part of the simulation and didn’t get to experience the entire “journey,” they were still very affected by it.

“These people need a chance and a place of refuge,” Alexis, a member of the CRS Krewe, said. “These people want to make something out of their lives. How can we deny them something so precious and essential as proper nourishment and respect? They could be an asset to our nation.”

The students who went through the simulation were also very affected by what they experienced. Most of them had studied immigration in a classroom setting, but the more vivid reenactment was very shocking to them.

“I honestly did not believe that it would be that bad,” Alissa (Mauras), a junior at Cabrini High School, said. “These are just people who have nothing and who have no power at all, so I thought that the people [in the United States] would be more lenient, but when you said that they have no food, they have crowded [conditions in the detention centers] it seems like they’re prisoners.”

The students could sympathize with young people the same age as they are who were fleeing for their lives from gang violence. Many students were very moved by the stories that they heard.

“It broke my heart to read [about these people’s stories] and before I even got into the room, I thought ‘wow, how much can we really take, as human beings,’” Isabella (Wallace), a Cabrini High School junior, said.

The students were also moved to help. They want to see change and they want to help the situation get better. They felt a call to action. After the simulation, the students were asked to write letters to President Obama to express their feelings about unaccompanied minors and what they think should be done. In total, the students wrote about 125 letters to the President.

“The way we are treating these people is disgusting,” one Cabrini High School student said in her letter. “There is absolutely no justice in how we treat them, nor is there any equality. If we truly want to, not only be a just country, but an equal country, we must treat them with respect, and give them the rights they deserve.”

“Dear President Obama,” another student wrote. “Children can’t control the situation they were born into. Immigrants flee situations they can’t live in to seek refuge. Please empathize with refugees and allow them the humane treatment that they deserve.”

This experience wasn’t only an eye opening experience for the Cabrini High School students but it made a strong impact on the Cabrini College students as well.

In a discussion after we had all gotten back to Cabrini College a few of the Ambassadors said that they were inspired by the students and were moved by how open and honest they were in the round table discussions we had with them.

The trip, even though it was only four days, was an amazing experience for everyone involved. When we went on this trip, we thought that we were going to teach the students about unaccompanied minors, but in the end, they taught us. After running the simulation many times and because we have learned about this subject at length, we had become accustomed to the terrible way children and teens are treated on their journey towards safety. The high school students’ enthusiasm and deep reflections helped to renew our passion and made the experience real to us again.

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Katherine Briante

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