By: Roxane Ramos
The Kino Teens, a social justice group associated with the Kino Border Initiative, take what they learn about border issues on the road, locally and nationally.
For the teenagers who attend Lourdes Catholic School in Nogales, Arizona, the border is not some distant abstraction—it is their home. And the debate that surrounds immigration reform is not simply political rhetoric—it is part of their everyday lives. So the students at Lourdes took on the issue, and organized the first Kino Teens group with the help of Fr. Pete Neeley, S.J., of the Kino Border Initiative and Teresita Scully, campus minister and theology teacher at Lourdes, to learn more about the migrant experience and teach others.
The Kino Teens follow the example of Padre Kino, who was in his time a great defender of native peoples and their rights. Taking up that mantle, the Teens are friends and supporters of migrants through their volunteer work at the KBI Outreach Center (the comedor), educational activities within their community, fundraising efforts for the KBI, advocacy visits to local legislative offices, and presentations at schools and churches to share their experiences with other students. They seek to dispel the myths of migration—a central part of human history—addressing why people migrate, what they endure on their journeys, and what can be done to ease the situations they face. In so doing, they re-focus the debate on crucial matters of human dignity, social justice and our common bond.
Last year, Kino Teens from Lourdes traveled to San Francisco with Fr. Pete where students from St. Ignatius College Preparatory hosted them, and to Washington, D.C., to join in the Ignatian Family Teach-In. In San Francisco, they participated in workshops with other high school students and offered a presentation entitled “Life on the Border for Hispanic Youth.” In Washington, they presented at the Teach-In, engaged in breakout and networking sessions, attended a rally on the Capitol lawn, and visited legislators’ offices to advocate on the issue of immigration reform. More recently, Kino Teens from Brophy College Preparatory supported the KBI by serving dinner to 220 guests at the Fourth Annual Kino Border Initiative Dinner, held at St. Francis Xavier School in Phoenix. The event raised more than $140,000.
Each summer, Kino Teens from different schools gather for a 3-day immersion called Border Days. The students learn about the history of the U.S.–Mexico border, the challenges faced by the migrants, and the current issues surrounding immigration. Along the way, they have a lot of fun and make new friends who share their commitment to social justice. And so begins a life of connection and activism on behalf of those in need
Interest in this sort of experiential engagement for young people has grown over the years. Since 2009, when the KBI’s Kino Teens program was started at Lourdes, clubs have been set up at Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix, Arizona, and St. Ignatius College Preparatory in San Francisco, California. There are 40–50 students currently participating in Kino Teens activities. They may start as apprentices in border issues and its politics, but like anyone who learns by doing, they have become ardent and articulate teachers, ambassadors and advocates.
To Learn More: Watch online videos about the Kino Teens and their work at: https://www.youtube.com/user/KinoTeensNogales And don’t miss the news coverage of Kino Teen Julia Tognotti’s clothing drive efforts; she attends St. Ignatius College Preparatory in San Francisco, and is shipping 14 boxes of clothing to Nogales this month: http://abc7news.com/news/local-teen-collects-clothes-to-help-immigrants/225663/