Sophia Sennett knew what it was like living on an international border.
Having spent her youth growing up in Blaine, she was familiar with being in close proximity to another country.
But for Sennett, now a student at the United World College in New Mexico, that perspective shifted when she enrolled in a immigration education program on the U.S./Mexican border.
The five-day program explores the complex topic of immigration along the southern border and invites students from Belgium, Afghanistan, Thailand, Ecuador, Zimbabwe, The Netherlands, Jordan, Costa Rica, the United Kingdom, and the United States to challenge media and political stereotypes as they live and learn with the citizens of Douglas, Arizona and Aqua Prieta, Mexico. The trip is part of the college’s programs to study local issues.
The program, called “Beyond Borders” was selected as the “Top Ten International K-12 Education Program” by the U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy, in partnership with the U.S. State Department. It includes face-to-face meetings with people on both sides of the border, as well as a community service project with a bi-national partner organization called Frontera de Cristo.
“I’ve lived in Blaine my whole life and I’ve always been conscious of a border, so it was interesting to see the southern border,” said Sennett. “For example the Peace Arch border crossing doesn’t have any walls but the Douglas, Arizona border crossing has so much more security and fences. I really hope Blaine stays that way.”
Students also volunteered with different non-profits that offer services to migrant individuals including a migrant resource center and horticulture gardens in the city. They also met with U.S. Border Patrol officers.
Sennett said one of the more interesting stops was a feather factory they visited in northern Mexico, an economically important area in that country.
“I had an initial understanding of the Mexican border, but it was interesting and really eye-opening because I was able to take that pre-understood knowledge to the images I saw in Mexico, it really brought everything together for me,” she said.
Sennett said she plans on majoring in political science or economics.
For more information, visit www.uwc-usa.org.