Photo by Kayla Bennett
Counseling and higher education professor Peter Mather and five fellows from Ohio — Carlee Allen, Kayla Bennett, Camilla Hibbard, Sarah Ladipo, Madison Schroer — learned about humanitarian issues on the Texas-Mexico border during spring break .
Mather, who has been engaged in service-learning and community engagement projects throughout his career, contacted the Ohio Fellows program during the 2021-22 academic year to see if he could lead. a new project.
A non-traditional scholar program, the Ohio Scholars Program fosters deep learning and engagement through close collaboration with faculty, peers, and alumni. Mather’s past experiences on the frontier and taking students to Central America on research and service-learning projects led him to create this new program with the Ohio Fellows program.
On March 4, 2022, the five fellows from Ohio traveled to meet Mather in Brownsville, Texas.
At the border, Mather and the Ohio scholars partnered with two humanitarian organizations in Brownsville and McAllen, Texas, that would allow students to learn about the issues immigrants face when entering the United States. . Its aim was to familiarize students with the human experience of people in transit and to help students understand why people cross the border.
“What does this journey look like for them? And then what are some of the political issues in the United States that impact people crossing the border, and what kind of humanitarian assistance is offered? Mather said.
The first organization the students worked with was Brownsville Team, an independent organization based at the Brownsville bus station that prepares packages for asylum seekers. The organization provides food, water and basic necessities in addition to legal and medical assistance to the community of asylum seekers in the cities of Matamoros and Reynosa, Mexico, and to released families by US authorities in the United States at the Brownsville bus station.
After spending time with the Brownsville team, the group traveled to McAllen and worked with Catholic Charities of McAllen. Pregnant women and families with children have found support from Catholic charities.
“It was truly a transformative experience that I will remember for the rest of my life,” said Sarah Lapido. “I was able to talk one-on-one with people who came from afar to cross the border. It was impactful to talk to people traveling with their families and even pregnant women traveling alone.
“There were a lot of people in transit there. And they basically have this big warehouse-sized building,” says Mather. “We were helping people there. They have great storage of supplies and clean clothes and stuff. And people can shower there and everything, but we were basically going to the storage area. They told us what kind of clothes they needed, and again they were about to leave to stay with sponsors or family members.
Mather says one thing that makes traveling with Ohio Scholars interesting is that it’s interdisciplinary. He values the differences between the students he traveled with and actively facilitated conversations about the things they were doing and seeing so that each student’s perspective was heard.
“The whole experience in Texas was life changing, and it couldn’t have happened without Pete,” said Kayla Bennett, head of journalism. “Being able to join Pete on his excursion has been such an honor, especially to do so alongside my peers. I learned so much new information that I will carry with me throughout my career as a journalist. I’m so grateful to have had an eye-opening experience and thank Pete for organizing it.
For more on Mather’s travels and to see her blog post about traveling with Ohio Fellows, see About the project | Mapping the Future of Student Affairs (mappingsafuture.com).