Webster University Students and Faculty Making a Difference at the Border

Webster students and faculty at the Texas/Mexico border.

For the past five years, Webster University student groups have traveled to the Texas/Mexico border over spring and fall break to provide aid and assist in humanitarian efforts for immigrants. The type of work they do at the border may change, but the significance of their efforts is consistently impactful.   

This year was no different. Professors Mary Ann Drake (Nursing), Ruben Arias (Spanish language), and Anne Geraghty-Rathert (Legal Studies) traveled with nine Webster students to the Texas/Mexico border during spring break.  

Webster University professor Mary Ann Drake has led Webster’s trip to the border year after year. When asked about why she continues to make the journey, she admits it is because of what she has seen at the border. 

“I am haunted by memories of the injustice and inequity in the lives of those we have met - that keeps me going back,” Drake explained. “I have returned from each of the 6 trips with a tremendous amount of gratitude.” 

The Webster group regularly teams up with ARISE Adelante, a community-based program in Texas. ARISE helps families to strengthen their communities, identify life goals, and provides resources to help families reach those goals independently. 

During this year’s four-day trip, the Webster team assisted with medical services, provided updates on immigration law, and provided childcare to immigrants. 

Drake notes that the relationships they build at the border are twofold – the Webster team provides physical aid and support, while those at the border return the favor in a way that cannot be replicated elsewhere.  

“We have developed friendships with many at ARISE,” Drake said. “Webster University faculty and students provide expertise and knowledge to better lives, and in return we learn about life and culture at the border.” 

Isabella Ocampo, a Webster international student, spoke about how the trip hit home for her – and how it reassured her that she is following her passion.  

“As an international student and an immigrant myself, it was wonderful to visit the border between Texas and Mexico. I translated for immigrants, and I was moved by the courage they had to leave their home country to find peace and a better life for themselves and their families. This experience was very touching for me. I see life differently now, and as a legal student I feel like I am on the right path to be able to help immigrants even more in the future.”  

Isabella Ocampo plays with immigrant children at the Texas/Mexico border.

Isabella Ocampo plays with immigrant children at the Texas/Mexico border. 

In addition to providing physical assistance, Webster students and faculty had the opportunity to present an educational subject to migrants. As a group coming from varying academic backgrounds, the speeches were diverse – ranging from medical tips to legal presentations. 

Sonja Auten, a student in the master of science in nursing program, led a presentation which outlined tips for overall health and diabetes. 

“The (migrants) were all were so grateful for small deeds of kindness. I enjoyed giving them education to better their health. It was surreal to hear the stories of the local residents and see the needs of the migrants. The trip was eye opening,” Auten said. 

Sonja Auten leads a presentation about health for migrants.

Sonja Auten leads a presentation about health. 

Although the purpose of the trip is to make a difference in the lives of migrants, the trip impacts Webster students and faculty just as strongly.  

“The trip changed my views on American citizenship, religion, and meaningful service,” said Lucy Banion, an undergraduate student majoring in music and international human rights.  

“I often resent my own government for inaction and political polarization and wish I lived somewhere else. I do not think my disdain is unprompted, however I do take my rights as a citizen for granted. This trip allowed me to see all that citizenship represents for migrants. It has empowered me to use my own personal frustrations and my education to make change for the benefit of everyone. There’s a strong faith at the border, and it’s a faith completely different than anything I had ever experienced. Rather than a political expression, their faith was their motivation, and it made me want to reignite my own faith. Most of all, my experience compelled me to act. I am torn between the needs of limited immediate relief and permanent policy change. The world, and specifically the communities around the border need both,” she stated. 

Lucy’s final sentiment encapsulated what all participants seem to echo.  

“This trip impacted me in unforgettable ways and is something I miss everyday since returning.” 

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