Hi everyone! This Tuesday, I will begin my Jean Donovan Fellowship with two host organizations: the Center for Employment Training (CET) Immigration and Citizenship Program, and Thriving Neighbors Initiative (TNI). Both hosts are located in the Greater Washington Community in downtown San Jose, California. CET Immigration and Citizenship is a department within the San Jose CET that seeks to offer free and reduced price services to those seeking documentation. They mainly serve Central American immigrants, but regularly have clients from all over the world. TNI is an organization run by the SCU Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education that is based at Washington Elementary. Through a variety of programs, it seeks to establish and maintain a mutually beneficial relationship between the Washington Community and SCU. I have been a student assistant for the Nobili afterschool program at Washington for the past two years.
I am so excited to begin my journey diving into a community that has touched my heart during my time at SCU. With CET, I will shadow an immigration attorney and a variety of social workers specializing in immigration and citizenship. I will have opportunities to work one-on-one with those seeking their services, and will certainly learn not only about the complexities of migration, but also the unique of the stories that bring individuals and their families to this country. With TNI, I will work with four mothers of Washington Elementary students as they complete their own autobiographies; a project started by Thelma Valadez, a former Donovan Fellow. I have known these women and many of their children during the last couple of years working as a student assistant to the Nobili afterschool program at Washington, and know that I am quite privileged to get to know them even more in the coming weeks.
What I am most excited about my upcoming experience is the opportunity for a new beginning in a neighborhood that I have grown comfortable in. The community no longer feels foreign to me; I believe we are all susceptible to a false sense of familiarity and comfort in certain places. The reality is that it is very difficult, and often impossible, to truly know a place and its peoples when it is not your own. One of my primary reasons for choosing a placement so familiar to me was to push myself to recall that there is always more; there is always another story, another circumstance, another nuance.
During my placement, I hope to strengthen my ability to feel the pulls of my heart to those personal connections that I long for in my career. I hope to resist the temptation to be numb to the world’s pain. I have found that in recent months it has become so easy to stop paying attention, as the ugliness has become predictable. I hope to become a stronger listener. I hope to allow myself to grieve the world’s pain in order to be strong enough to alleviate it.
Most of all, I hope to accept myself and my personal responses to my experience, to know that I am a human with natural emotional limitations.