I just returned home from an incredible week leading a student program on the US/Mexico border in El Paso. In all my years of teaching and traveling with students, THIS program is the most formative and transformational, hands down. Our El Paso program is one of the most popular domestic programs that we run right now and it is easy to see why. The academic nature of this program is intense and every aspect of this program makes one challenge assumptions and stare head on into misconceptions. One of the aspects of this program that I loved the most was watching the students begin to truly form their own opinions and ideas around this issue of immigration and the US relationship with Mexico. The students, like adults, came on this program with firm beliefs about immigration and throughout the week of meetings with border patrol agents, undocumented immigrants, migrant farmers, healthcare workers, immigration attorneys, and magistrate judges, the students began to solidify their understanding of what the true problem is at the border and began exploring what they found to be valid solutions for those problems. This is the beginnings of student activism for these students. As we have seen in the US lately, student activism can take many forms. Student activism in the US is not a new phenomenon but we have been seeing more and more instances of it over the course of the last few years. In the last month alone, there were two incidents of youth protest such that this country has not seen since the Vietnam era. #MarchForOurLives and the national student walkout, #neveragain, were organized and executed by students impassioned by events that struck close to home for them. This kind of uprising has not occurred with such force since the 1960-1970s when the youth in this country began fighting for civil rights for all people.
Wherever we stand on these issues and with whatever perspectives that we hold, one thing is certain, we are being called to help our students navigate this time and these newly found passions as they find themselves, some for the very first time, being compelled to act.
One of my favorite quotes by Margaret Mead reminds us that even the smallest stone can create an unstoppable ripple, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.