I am a recent graduate from University of Texas Austin. During my time at this wonderful university, I had the opportunity to meet a diverse group of faithful individuals committed to social justice. I was involved in campus ministry, especially as part of the Social Justice Team. Moving back to El Paso, I knew I wanted to find opportunities to collaborate and form connections with other young, faithful people. But after four years away, El Paso had become a brand-new place. I didn’t know where - or even how - to start looking for new “partners” in social justice.
When I graduated college, I craved for interaction with my peers again, and HBI’s Border Leaders Academy allowed me to reconnect. It was amazing to meet other young leaders; especially because now, I was listening to stories that hit closer to home.
I give thanks to have met such a variety of people from literally all over the world during my time in Austin. However, often being the only Latina in the group was at times exhausting, since I always had to explain myself, my background and beliefs as a Mexican. Being back in the border region with people from similar Mexican backgrounds was very welcoming and refreshing. Not only did I meet people from my country, but I learned about issues in Mexico I was not aware of. Furthermore, not only do I now know about many more events going on in the city, but I also get to see my new friends. I often reunite with my peers at events, and even bump into them at church services. This makes me feel like I am truly back home. I no longer feel like a stranger in an old new city.
In addition to expanding my social network, the Academy helped me grow spiritually. Not only were my religious views deeply challenged by the valuable insights from peers, but I was prompted to seriously examine my own sense of purpose in social justice. I have always had a calling to social justice, but I had never examined it in the new perspective this academy provided, especially as it came to thinking of my own experiences.
Lastly, my faith and role as a Catholic in social justice also grew thanks to the coaching and strategies I was taught to organize successful social movements. Not only were we given concrete steps for action, but we were provided the space and guidance to practice these skills at least at the basic level. This was extremely valuable for me, especially as it applies to fighting for justice in a world often filled with oppression. I had become quite familiar with the theology of social justice, but I honestly never had obtained the sense of direction towards action this Academy provided me. I’m thankful for this training, space for reflection, conversation and collaboration this weekend with HBI provided me.