by Nathan Gower, staff writer
On Nov. 7, four representatives of the service learning program presented Warren Wilson’s issue workshop model at the Bonner Fall Director’s Meeting in Hendersonville, North Carolina.
Students Ana Baranda and Carlos Lara, as well as Director of Community Leadership Debra Kiliru represented the college and Latino Outreach Coordinator at Children First of Buncombe County, Norma Brown.
The presentation was primarily meant to demonstrate how an issue workshop started by the students of the college led to the establishing of a consistent relationship with a community partner.
Lara, who was on the Service Learning Crew at the time of the program’s development, spoke of semester-long student-led service initiatives that involve students in the planning, organizing, leading, and direct service aspects of a service trip. Lara shared his own experiences.
The initial partnership with the Family Resource Center at Emma (FRCE) in West Asheville was a byproduct of the immigration workshop known as Families Between Borders. It would come to be known as MANOS, an acronym for Mentoring and Nurturing On Site.
The initial focus of the weekly trip to the FRCE was, primarily, on preparing participating youth for college.
“Families Between Borders turned into the college access workshop, and that’s where we started getting relationships with the parents and students and Norma,” Baranda said.
Baranda explained further, “The first Emma weekly focused on college access for youth, but as we started creating relationships with students and learning where they’re coming from, we learned that these students still had another level before getting into college. We had to address how do these students graduate high school.”
Lara added that many of the issues regarding access to education are unique and challenging for undocumented students.
“If the youth sign up for classes at AB Tech while they’re in high school, they don’t need to show documents. If they wait until after graduation, they have to show them,” he said.
“How do we make sure these students graduate high school? How do we make them confident to get a job or go to college right after high school?” Baranda said.
As part of the issue workshop, Lara and the first iteration of Families Between Borders reported their progress at the end of the semester-long service commitment.
“With that presentation, they saw how the whole immigration process works and the whole theme of Families Between Borders. These high ranking people with service all around Asheville asked how could they be a part of this,” Lara explained.
Baranda added that the success of the issue workshop presentation reflected positively on Warren Wilson.
“It wasn’t just the issue we represented, but by presenting the workshop, they showed the board that they had Warren Wilson symbolically there supporting this issue as well,” she said.
Baranda explained the difficulties in drawing undocumented families and students to a program like MANOS.
“How do you get families and students who are undocumented to come if they have to have IDs checked or an accident happens along the way? We had to ask, what can we offer these families that keeps them coming back? How could we establish a sense of trust?” said Baranda.
Children First is a non-profit organization that works towards increasing families’ financial stability through outreach programs like food security or utility assistance.