Imagine spending a week out in the desert in a house full of fellow students and teachers you recently met. During the day, you cross the border to meet with migrants who speak a different language and learn about their lived experiences. One day involves a hike across the desert, providing a simulation of the immigration journey. 

That’s how Sophia, a student at Presentation High School, chose to spend a school break as part of the Kino Border Initiative immersion program. Kino Border Initiative, whose vision is to promote migration with dignity through holistic aid, education and advocacy on both sides of the US-Mexico border, partners with Presentation to allow students to witness migration firsthand. Sophia found this immersion trip enlightening and empowering. 

“Going to that shelter made me realize how many opportunities we have here at Presentation and in the Bay Area,” said Sophia. “It really made me reflect on how lucky I am and to be where I am, the power that I have as a student and a person living in the US, and how I can help others.”

Prior to this trip, Sophia had some idea of how challenging it could be to cross the border. Her grandfather immigrated to the US from Mexico, so she felt a deep connection to this opportunity. She first learned about the Kino Border Initiative from her brother, who also went on an immersion trip with the organization.

Sophia’s family inspired her to go on this journey, and a family she met during the trip gave her an up-close perspective on the immigration experience. She visited the immigration shelter every day during her trip, and one woman would sit down with her and talk about her experiences crossing the border with her two sons. Those conversations stuck with Sophia, and she still prays for that family every day.

The Presentation student vividly recalls looking at the backpack of someone who had crossed the border. The migrants had water jugs that were painted black. They did this so that the jugs wouldn’t reflect sunlight and be spotted by border patrol. It was then Sophia realized that immigrants leave everything at home. She also found photos of family members, local trees, and other reminders of the home they left behind.

“After I came back from the immersion trip, I had all this knowledge that I could use in my classes, talking with others, and even at my job,” said Sophia. “I was able to tell all these stories, and now I’ll have these stories forever.”

Going on this trip has fostered Sophia’s interest in immigration and policy. She intends to pursue an international relations major in college, and she hopes to continue taking trips to places where she can learn even more about social justice issues. During her last year in high school, she plans to rally members of clubs she’s involved in on campus to write letters to immigrants at the Kino Border Initiative.

Immersions like these are core to the identity of the school, especially when it comes to honing in on the social justice issues that the Presentation Sisters fought for in the past. Through these programs, students continue the sisters’ legacy of caring for the poor and marginalized. After participating in immersion trips, students often find themselves motivated to participate in social change during their time in school and beyond. 

Students apply for immersion trips that are relevant to their interests. Then, the Faith and Justice team at Presentation reviews the applications. The team looks at the individual gifts each student brings to the table and how they can come together to create a meaningful experience. Once selected, students meet several times during the semester to prepare them for the trip. They then go on the fully immersive trip for a week. Once they return, they attend post-trip meetings focused on what they’ve learned and where they’re going to take this experience. 

Last year, students who went on the Kino immersion trip hosted a bilingual advocacy night, hearing testimonies from Presentation staff members about their own immigration journeys. This helped humanize the experience for all students while showing them that this issue is closer to home than they may have realized. The goal of all of these initiatives is to allow students to become leaders for social justice in their communities, rooted in the Catholic Social Teaching of care for the dignity of each person. The Service and Immersion program gets to the core of what makes Presentation the school it is today.

Through the Kino immersion program, Sophia feels more mature and more empowered to impact change in the global community. She would encourage any Presentation student who is interested in going on an immersion trip to seize the opportunity. To Sophia, community involvement is what being a Presentation student is all about. Within her school community, Sophia leads a dance team and participates in a variety of extracurricular activities including the LatinX Club and the Community Involvement program. 

“You can write the best essay, you can have the best homework assignment, you have the best grades, but it's really what you do outside of the classroom, volunteer work, and in the community that forms a Pres student,” said Sophia. 

Students sacrifice breaks from school to be in solidarity with others, which is one way that they live out the experience of the school motto, “Not words, but deeds.” Students have a unique opportunity to engage with those who are directly impacted by social justice issues. Through the Service and Immersion programs at Presentation, students become empowered to make a real difference in the world through their actions.

  • Leadership
  • Service