Junior Grace Blankenhorn knew what to expect when she and twenty of her classmates drove south of the border to Mexicali at the end November. This was the second time she participated in the Los Niños program, a yearly service-learning trip for Cate students. “We did a lot of cementing,” says Grace. The group spent time at an orphanage, a school, an immigration center, and a community of tile makers, volunteering, playing, and learning about a place very different from what they know. “We got to see the personal experiences,” says Grace, who particularly enjoyed sharing her varsity soccer skills with local children on the pitch.
“I connected with the kids,” says Grace. “I noticed they were so optimistic even though they’re living situations aren’t the best. But they were always just so happy—wanting to play games and be doing something active.” Grace says that in her experience she heard the locals’ desire for better economic opportunities, in their home countries and abroad. Cate Director of Public Service Will Holmes says, “Everyone brings back their individual experience on a Los Niños trip. Two common themes that people bring back are empathy for the personal stories they heard and frustration for not being able to do more for the people they met.”
Grace says that after coming home she has more awareness of issues at the border and immigration in general. As for the group’s impact, the Los Niños program director repeatedly emphasized to the students in addition to the economic impact of building structures for the locals, “we have so much of an impact on the spirit—like seeing the generosity and the willingness to help others inspires them, which I think is a great thing.”