Twelve students from Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., spent their spring break in Phoenix volunteering with Catholic Charities Westside Head Start and the unaccompanied minor program. Steve Pisciotta tells us about his experience.
Partnering with Catholic Charities was a blessing for us and enabled our program called Mission: Possible to engage with a community that introduced us to the poignant life of unaccompanied minors and gave us the privilege of giving back to those in need. Twelve students immersed themselves in the daily school life of children in Westside Head Start classrooms as well as children in the Unaccompanied Minor School.
This environment was unparalleled to anything we had experienced. Working with these beautiful, happy children in the classroom and simply spending time with them was rewarding beyond measure! Hearing the children’s stories at the unaccompanied minor school gave light to issues that many of us never hear about on the news or experience in the United States.
Through our partnership with Catholic Charities, we experienced the necessity of the Head Start program to the student and the community, the gift of caring teachers and the plight of those who seek a better life. We were only in Phoenix for a week, but the memories and connections that were formed have left an indelible mark on all of our lives.
A great influence was hearing about the struggles of life in Guatemala. It was incredibly difficult to hear that a young child remembered swimming in a river and recalled seeing bodies of individuals killed by the cartels. An instance like this shouldn’t happen to anyone, let alone a small child.
A lot of the volunteers have never been exposed to low-income schools or programs like Westside Head Start. This program addresses common needs by serving breakfast and lunch. It also teaches good hygiene through instruction in brushing teeth and washing hands, which was really startling to us because most of us learned that at home as a child, not at school.
College students tend to get stuck in the bubble of college and don’t get involved or even go beyond the confines of campus. Participating in this service immersion trip on spring break allowed students to realize that there is so much need out there. Seeing the struggles that children go through gave us a new perspective and changed our outlook on life.
Steve Pisciotta graduated from Gonzaga University in May, 2015 with a Bachelor’s of Business Administration. Through immersion trips and service opportunities he developed a passion for social justice that motivated him to lead multiple service immersion trips to inform other’s about these issues that are present in our world.