On Monday, from 7 to 9 p.m. in Hemmingson Ballroom, members of the Gonzaga and Spokane community are invited to Engage & Localize: Community Teach-In Collaborative, a student-organized event directed to inform the community about the realities of immigration policy and refugee communities in the Inland Northwest.
“Our mission is to mobilize the community of Spokane to respond to the humanitarian concerns that directly impact refugees, asylee and migrant communities,” said Francesca Nevil, a senior at Gonzaga and one of the student organizers. “A lot of our students have the perception that these issues are at the U.S.-Mexican border or in Syria, and they’re not actually occurring here in Spokane, so we wanted to provide students an opportunity to understand what this looks like in Spokane.”
It began as a final project of the Comprehensive Leadership Program (CLP), where seniors are to continue a legacy project that graduates of the program have left behind. However, Nevil proposed a new idea.
The five seniors also contributing to the project are Zoe Jaspers, Noah Bagley, Alea Chatman, Rick Wytmar and Joan Aoanan.
“On the day we choose our groups, students can also make a proposal,” Alea Chatman said. “So, Franny proposed something in response to the presidential determination on the new cap for refugees, and that was back in September.”
“On the day we choose our groups, students can also make a proposal,” Alea Chatman said. “So, [Nevil] proposed something in response to the presidential determination on the new cap for refugees. That was back in September.”
To help students get a better understanding of immigration efforts in Spokane, the CLP seniors are beginning the event with a panel of six Spokane residents who work directly with refugees and migrants. The panel will focus on what work is being done locally in Spokane and will discuss how local policies, local efforts and political culture has an impact on an individual level.
“Essentially, we modeled this after what we had to do, which is to realize we don’t know that much,” Chatman said. “We can try to educate ourselves as much as we want, but there are people who do this every day and they know way more than we do.”
The second portion of the event will be a tabling session where different organizations bring information and resources to share with students who have an interest in immigration.
“There is already so much going on in Spokane with different organizations who work directly with these communities,” Nevil said. “We thought we don’t need one more thing, rather, it would be cool to highlight the work that is already being done.”
While the event is hosted by GU students, invitations are not exclusive.
“We’ve established partnerships with Eastern Washington University and Whitworth, and we’re working on the community colleges as well,” Nevil said. “I really like that it is a collaborative effort through these student populations. But the information, resources and knowledge come from the organizations, so it is fluid in that sense.”
The student organizers are also hoping for high school representation at the event.
“After the sustainability march through [the youth climate strike], seeing the huge response of high schoolers at that and seeing the other responses locally that have been led or supported by high schoolers, we recognized what an awesome force that is,” Nevil said. “We thought, why not invite them into these conversations. They will be entering colleges soon, and this is their local community as well.'”
The hosts insist the event will be beneficial for everyone, regardless of generation or political view.
“We are going to have people speaking who literally experience this stuff in their everyday life,” Chatman said. “It’s the closest thing to the truth you’re going to get. It’s a pure form of education.”
“It is really in alignment with Gonzaga values and our place-based initiative, and our intentions to understand the communities that we are in,” Nevil said. “I hope it’ll be a cool opportunity. Even if students don’t have time to come volunteer and add one more thing to their plate, they can come, listen and have that open posture.”
Editor's Note: Rick Wytmar is currently employed by The Gonzaga Bulletin as a staff writer.