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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Early move-in focuses on immigration

Students participate in service work in a community garden. PHOTO: Courtesy of William Rickle, S.J.

Before classes started on Hawk Hill, a group of 20 underclassmen, alongside student leaders and faculty, explored the issue of migration in the United States.

SJU Reads is a two-day early move-in program that invites incoming first year students and sophomores to participate in experiential learning grounded in reading and reflection to learn about the Ignatian value of social justice.

“I wanted to get people from all over campus involved in something mission related,” said Nancy Fox, Ph.D., associate professor of economics, who spearheaded the creation of the program.

SJU Reads used to serve as a part of orientation but was taken out of the itinerary because there was a lack of students who actually read the selected books, according to Fox.

The program was absent from the St. Joe’s community until Fox read a book titled “Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Immigrant” by Jose Antonio Vargas. The book depicts the story of Vargas, who is an undocumented immigrant from the Philippines.

“I read the book in three days [and thought] we have to get this into the hands of the community,” Fox said.

This sparked the resurrection of SJU Reads.

Fox said she, along with several faculty members and students, meticulously worked to turn SJU Reads into an independent early move-in program.

The program was spread out over two days and students participated in discussions and reflections about immigration, community building and a visit to immigrant neighborhoods in South Philadelphia.

Within these communities, students got the chance to do service in a community garden and interact with immigrant business owners in the area. In addition, students and faculty ate diverse meals as a way of immersing themselves into the program further, according to Fox.

“The activity in the community garden was particularly great because it gave the students a chance to bond with each other,” said William Rickle, S.J., campus minister of Athletics and Student Life, who accompanied the students on their visit in the communities.

Genna Kindelberger ’22 was a participant in the SJU Reads program this summer. She explained that the students got the opportunity to talk with two individuals who grow crops in the garden as well.

“They gave us lots of information about how important food is to their culture and learning to cook with American ingredients,” Kindelberger said.

Through discussions and reflections, students get a broader understanding and appreciation for the complexity of immigration history, Rickle explained.

“It puts fresh eyes and a fresh perspective on the current situation we have,” Rickle said.

Kindelberger added that there are so many different groups of immigrants in the Philadelphia area, which is why it is so important to have programs like this.

“There are so many other groups that are not seen. and I thought it was really interesting to work with those groups,” Kindelberger said. “Going to St. Joe’s and living in the area we live in, which is a predominantly white area, I think learning about immigration and other cultures is so important to have an understanding of people in general.”

Paul Ammons ’20, student leader for the program, said that SJU Reads also provides learning spaces for students to put this knowledge into the context of their own lives and experiences.

“For me it was a validation of my experiences,” Ammons said. “I’m from San Diego and I live right on the border, so I was able to discuss my identity, living that experience and also being a Latino on campus.”

Ammons added that grounding dialogue through the context of the assigned reading allowed students to create a space to open a discussion on identity and belonging in the St. Joe’s community.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for students to have these conversations about belonging through the lens of who they are and the identity through which they live,” Ammons said. “Whether that be their migration status, their race, their gender, social class, or faith tradition.”

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