Experiences at the Arizona Border

Molly Begeman, Editor-in-chief

Erie, Pa, March 9, 2023—“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”- Mahatma Gandhi

Service plays a large role on the Gannon University’s campus and mission statement.

“Gannon is a Catholic, Diocesan university dedicated to excellence in teaching, scholarship, and service. Our faculty and staff prepare students to be global citizens through programs grounded in the liberal arts and sciences and professional specializations.”

Built into the fabric of the University, they pride themselves on the abundance of service opportunities they provide, from GIVE (Gannon’s Invitation to Volunteer Everywhere) Day, to Day of Caring, and their ABST’s (Alternative Break Service Trip).

As a Junior on campus, I am proud of the fact that in my college career I have participated in each one of these amazing service opportunities.

The one that I cherish the most, is my ABST to Arizona.

Doing service in Tucson, Arizona, for the entirety of spring break; I travelled alongside of three faculty members, and five other Gannon students where we spent our spring break learning and serving others.

Over the course of the week, we would focus on the issues that are most prevalent in the Tucson area, as well as the United States and Mexico border. The trip was not entirely service, we were able to get the chance to see various parts of beautiful Arizona.

The first full day, that we were in Tucson, the group was privileged to visit the Border Protection office in Nogales, Arizona. While there talking with Border Patrol agents, I learned a lot of knowledge about the struggles of immigrants crossing the border illegally, and the agents’ own experiences.

Witnessing the border and the fence separating the two countries, was heart breaking for me. As the agents were showing us the border, the group was standing on the top of a hill, and we could see a group in Mexico moving as they were trying to cross the border sometime soon.

Seeing this group, truly put everything in perspective for me, and made me look at my own privileges.

Starting off the week, with already taking a step back and viewing my own privileges I only continued to do this throughout the entire week.

The next three and a half days, the group and I went to serve the Pio Decimo Center, a center that serves all ages and helps individuals from childhood age to adulthood in finding a community and be able to support themselves.

The center serves the under privileged, by providing early childhood education for Preschool and Pre-K age children, as well as an after-school youth center for children ages 5-18.

Pio Decimo also provides transitional housing, courses on how to purchase a home, low-cost senior housing, they are food bank providers, have a tax assistance program and much more to serve their community.

For three and a half days, the group worked on painting their outside wall, from peeling off the old paint to priming to the actual paint.  We spent time with the children in the classrooms and the after-school program. Along with helping with any odd and little job that they might have for us.

My personal favorite service that I did during my time there was being with the children. Despite these children never seeing us, or ever seeing us again they completely embraced us with open arms.

They did not think twice about becoming attached and treating us like we have been there forever. The kids were the sweetest and they ensured that you were always a part of whatever they may be doing.

One thing that I will always remember and that will remain with me, is when we spent the morning in the Preschool and Pre-K classrooms.

Immediately when we walked in, the children gravitated towards us and towards me. Very quickly I had a hoard of four to five kids leading me over to the dress up area.

Those children became attached and looked for me, as we went outside and continued throughout the morning.

Spending time with the children, was the highlight of my week. Even after we already spent the day with them and had our fun, anytime they saw us in the building they would wave and say hi.

They did not care that they may not have the best home lives and the most fabulous childhood, they were the most welcoming and friendly faces I could have ever imagined.

My trip to the Arizona Border has changed my life for the better, and I could not imagine experiencing all of this.