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Department of World Languages, Literatures, and Cultures

Division of Humanities

Jacksonville University
2800 University Blvd N.
Jacksonville, Florida, 32211

Tel. 904-256-7102

Designed by prof. Jorge. M. 2011. Jacksonville University.

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By Aixa Julias, JU.

Immigration has been a subject that raises a lot of questions but too often people get the wrong answers. This issue has had a lot of publicity more so in the last few years as the percentage of illegal and legal immigrants continue to grow. Whether people understand or are completely against immigration, it cannot change the fact that these people are already here and work hard, not taking the American jobs as many simply put it, but doing the jobs that many are too proud to do especially at the conditions given. The Hispanic, Latino, population has continuously grown and their influence has even made it to the March 5, 2012 Time Magazine edition titled Yo Decido, where Michael Scherer writes about Why Latinos will pick the next President. Without doubt the Hispanic/Latino population is starting to be heard making its mark in the American society and it is assumed to reach all the way to the White House.

For those immigrants who have been here for many years, who continue to be illegal immigrants, and work in the fields and struggle to barely make enough money to support their families, exists community-based organizations that meets the basic human needs. Places such as the HOPE CommUnity Center in Apopka, where they help and attend to these immigrants with providing them with a place where they can feel safe. The mission of this center, as it is stated on their website, is dedicated to empowerment of Central Florida’s immigrant and working poor communities through Education, Advocacy and Spiritual Growth. Founded in 1971, this organization continues to provide the families of farmworkers with an environment where they can feel safe and where they can have hope for their children. Everyone at this center is welcoming and willing to open its doors to anyone and everyone who wants to help and learn more about what each individual has to offer and essentially each volunteer will learn a little bit more about themselves.

For the past 2-3 years, Profesora Nina Gonzalez has partnered with this association to bring Jacksonville University’s students to help and have the opportunity to be exposed to someone else’s lifestyle. The last trip involved a group of 12 students and each pair stayed the weekend in the homes of different families who belong and attend the programs at the center. Even though none of the students had a clear idea of where they were going to be staying or how the families were going to be, each one of them went in with an open-mind and ready for an exciting weekend. Apart from getting to know the families, the students worked Saturday morning gleaning oranges giving each one an idea of the labor that some of these farmworkers do for a living.

On the last day, the students, Profesora Gonzalez, along with Maria Desangles and Ann Kendick, who are in charge of the center, came together and reflected on what they have gained.  At the end, every student, myself included, learned about unity and love as well as the need to cooperate with one another putting aside individualistic ideals by engaging in small acts that will last a lifetime. Although, we as students learned things like appreciating what we have a bit more, the impact that we left on the families, especially the children, will without doubt remain in their minds and their hearts. 

Our host family was Mexican and for them coming to the U.S. was a struggle and they said that it still is, however, they were very loving, caring and humble; although they had so little they wanted to give the best they had in order for us to feel at home. They never complained; everything they did was with a smile. That for me was very admirable. It is not the first time that I experience this kind of welcoming love and it reinforced the idea of how I would like to know more about these communities as I want to make a difference in their lives as they have made one in mine.”

I thought that the trip to Apopka, FL was an enriching and motivational experience.  I was fortunate to be able to meet with new people and learn about their immigration story.  It was interesting to be able to stay at their home and experience a different culture and learn new things.  Also, everyone was able to experience something different, which made the trip more interesting and memorable.  If I had the chance to experience this opportunity again, I will definitely do it because it is always important to broaden your knowledge base.”

My home stay family consisted of two women and seven children crammed into a two bedroom house. And even though they didn’t have much, they were still some of the most sincere and hospitable people that I have ever met. It was truly a humbling experience.”

Lauren Zurzolo (from the Service Learning office-JU), Maria Desangles (from Hope Community Center), Dana Littlefield, Yudelka Amazan, William Maclasaac, Katherine Thomas, Mark Montez, and Luka Vukadinovic, Stephanie Arnold, Simone Peters, Aixa Julia, Lyndsay Tropnas, Grace Han, Josefina Venneberg, Nina González.