Criminal Justice students take part in border immersion experience

Criminal Justice students take part in border immersion experience

Juarez, Mexico – Three Peru State College criminal justice students had the opportunity to visit the Columbian Mission Center in El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico. Hailey Benedict (Springfield, NE), Nicholas Novak (Dawson, NE) and Sierra Renner (Lincoln, NE) traveled to the southern border of the United States with assistant professor of criminal justice Ronicka Schottel.

Students participating in the “Border Immersion Experience,” had the experience of off-the-grid living during the daylight hours, catching shower water in buckets and taking it outside to water the garden, using reusable water bottles, recycling food scraps for the community garden and more. The complete experience was intended to inform students how environmental impacts have the greatest effect on those who live in poverty, especially migrants (whether legal or illegal).

A portion of the border wall is behind the group.

Renner, Schottel and Novak meeting with border patrol agents. Agents discussed how migrants are trying to get across the wall without being detected. Agents reported seeing horrible and traumatic conditions of those trying to make it through the desert.  

Schottel writes, “Father Bob with the Columbian Mission Center provided Peru State College with an experience that challenged the students, informed them of realities of the border and empowered them to want to do something to help.”

Topics covered included:

  • simple practices of water and electricity conservation
  • how education is viewed in Mexico
  • the legal conflicts of those who immigrate to the United States without documentation
  • the challenges the border patrol face with carrying out orders with limited resources
  • how companies in the United States build factories in Mexico and the impact this has on the economy and individual lives in Mexico
  • how little migrant workers make picking chili peppers

The program served to give the students a broader perspective on immigration, having them meet with border patrol agents along with migrant workers and their managers, including a manager from JBT Aerotech (a Chicago company that makes airport parts).

Nicholas Novak writes, “I took a lot away from our border immersion trip to El Paso and Juarez. There were numerous aspects of the trip that are worthy of discussing but only a few that had permanent impacts on me.”

“The first of these was the big emphasis on conservation and how we can lessen the impact of humankind on the environment,” Novak continues.

“The Columbian Mission Center had us practice water saving practices such as filling buckets of water with shower water before it heated up and then we would take the water outside to water plants or the garden. Discussions also took place about how those who live in poverty experience the most consequences from wasteful practices.”

The students examined the cultures of both El Paso and Juarez, towns that straddle the border of the United States and Mexico. They also learned about the view of education in Juarez.

A large sign spelling j, r,  and is behind the group.

Renner, Novak, Scholottel and guest stand in the city center of Jaurez, Mexico.

Sierra Renner writes, “Overall, our experience in El Paso and Juarez was very eye-opening. After speaking with a family in Juarez and learning their way of life, I have a newfound respect for the Hispanic culture. No matter the amount of money they have, the love they share is so rich.”

Hailey Benedict adds, “The trip to El Paso and Juarez was intense but truly an amazing experience. We were accompanied by many individuals who do incredible work. Inspiring and life changing!”

Novak writes, “It was also very eye-opening to learn about how the people of Juarez live. Factory workers make $6 a day and have to make many sacrifices. Overall, this entire experience was very humbling to me and it helped me realize how different and privileged my life is.”

Schottel concludes, “I am grateful for the opportunity the SEE (Student Engagement Enhancement) Grant provided to students and the transformation I got to witness during the very packed days at the border.”

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Quentin Victor contributed to this release.