>> lem >> saint mary's college high school // immersion experiences program
The Lasallian Educational Mission and the purpose of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools is to "provide a human and Christian education to the young, especially the poor, according to the ministry which the Church has entrusted to it."
The Lasallian Catholic Immersion Experience Programs at Saint Mary’s College High School provide students and faculty with engaging opportunities to experience life from alternative points of view. So often we are busy living our daily lives in familiar environments that sometimes an immersive experience outside of these norms allow us to see, hear, and experience life anew.
Our Lasallian Catholic Immersion Experience Programs take inspiration from John 1.39. Jesus’s disciples asked him where he was staying, and he replied, “Come and see.” And so, with eyes, ears, minds, hearts, and hands open, students are invited to dwell in those places unfamiliar to them, to grow outside of their comfort zones, and to learn from people who have much wisdom about the world to share with others.
The aim of each immersion experience program is to provide a transformative, faith-based, service-oriented, cultural, and educational experience for each participant. In particular, each of these programs offers its participants an opportunity to experience some of the conditions that the marginalized of our world live through day after day. When we are able to understand the experience of the ‘other’ we can come to better appreciate our own circumstances. Participants are challenged to explore a variety of human rights and social justice issues and to understand political, economic, and social realities using Catholic Social Teaching as our lens.
Our programs are offered between trimesters during our Enrichment Week.
Oki Ni Soo Ka Wa – Browning, Montana
(offered yearly to Sophomores)
Exclusively for sophomore students, participants on this Oki Ni Soo Ka Wa (Come and See in Blackfeet) have the opportunity to travel to Browning, Montana to participate in an immersion experience at De La Salle Blackfeet School on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. While in Montana, students are introduced to reservation life, will work with Head Start Students, elementary students, and will learn from the elders of the community. Students will prepare lessons for the school-age groups. Lessons could include science, art, or history activities. Students will also have the opportunity to travel through the Rocky Mountains and explore the Glacier National Park.
Pilgrims for Peace – Guarjila, El Salvador
(offered yearly for Juniors and Seniors)
Prepare to travel to the small town of Guarjila in Chalatenango, El Salvador. While there, students live with families of the Tamarindo Youth Group while living simply, spending days in community and solidarity with the youth of Guarjila, visiting important cultural and historic sites, and seeing the natural beauty of El Salvador. Students will also practice Spanish, explore faith and spirituality, develop a sense of self, and an understanding of the world through a commitment to serve humanity, and form lasting friendships through community.
Bay to the Bayou – New Orleans, Louisiana
(offered yearly for Juniors and Seniors above age 16)
This immersion program takes students to New Orleans to see the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina and to share in the hope and determination of the people. Students will help to restore the lives and property of those devastated by Hurricane Katrina but more importantly students will build relationships with people. We will meet families and young people who are rebuilding their lives and their city after this disaster – a disaster that was both natural and human made. Participants will also learn about the history of the region, experience the struggles the people are still trying to overcome, learn about our Lasallian connection to the area by meeting with other Lasallian students, and take in the culture and the richness of the New Orleans.
Vin We Non – Haiti
(offered yearly for Juniors and Seniors)
Vin We Non (Come and See in Haitian Creole), the immersion experience to Haiti, is designed to give the students a firsthand experience of the conditions on the ground in the economically poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Students will be introduced to the history, culture, and economic, political and spiritual aspects of Haiti and its people. Participants will also be given an opportunity to begin to establish relationships with the Haitian people especially with students of like age. The group will stay at the Matthew 25 house, and directly engage in service projects in Port-Au-Prince.
El Otro Lado - Tucson, Arizona
(offered occasionally for Juniors and Seniors)
El Otro Lado (The Other Side in Spanish) is for those individuals who want to understand immigration issues from various perspectives. Every day the students and adults learn, reflect, and pray about their experiences out in the desert or the border city. Our goal for this immersion experience is for the students to develop an understanding of issues of migration while they reflect and share their thoughts on their responsibility to serve and act justly.
Halika At Tingnan Mo – Philippines
(offered occasionally to all grade levels)
Halika at Tingnan Mo (Come and See in Filipino) was piloted during the 2011 – 2012 school year as a combined performing arts experience and service immersion. Students had the opportunity to intentionally connect with their Lasallian sisters and brothers half way around the world at such places as Bahay Pag-Asa (House of Hope), De La Salle-Dasmarinas University, Jaime Hilario Integrated School, and De La Salle Santiago Zobel. Participants performed in each location, and in some cases, were involved in various service activities.
While each immersion is tailored to the specific outcomes of each particular program, there are unifying elements that tie the Immersion Experience program together.
To prepare for immersion experiences, students study the history and the people of the culture they are visiting through various readings, subsequent discussions, and appropriate media. From time to time, special guests are invited to share their perspective with the immersion group. Participants on each immersion experience strive to understand the various issues, the complexities, and the nuances that are involved in the perpetuation of poverty, marginalization, and injustice.
Building Relationships in Community
Through the process of preparation, students and immersion leaders have an opportunity to build community with one another. Various activities like fundraising and outings provide participants with the opportunity to know each other. While immersed, the group then works to build intentional relationships with their hosts.
Living in the Western United States, we live in relative abundance and prosperity. By acknowledging this, we need to understand that there is value is living with simplicity. We also need to understand that our need for material goods also has an effect on living conditions in other parts of the world. An immersion experience provides participants with an opportunity to see the benefits of living simply.
Prayer and Reflection
Throughout the experience, opportunities for prayer and intentional reflection are available. All immersion experience participants begin their day with prayer as a way of centering and as a way of remembering that the Holy Presence of God was in each experience they had thus far and in each encounter they are going to have. Following each day, participants gather to process and reflect upon what they have seen and heard. Participants’ experiences in immersion are sometimes radically different than their own living situations that the need to talk or write about those experiences in community with one another is needed. Teachers facilitate all the prayers and reflection sessions to ensure that the process is educational and safe.
Upon returning to our Saint Mary’s College High School campus, students have an opportunity to share their experiences with one another at our annual Potluck and Presentation meal. Sharing food around table gives us an opportunity to convey to others what we have experienced. Participants are also invited to share with the larger immersion experience family what they have gained as a result of their adventure. Students are sometimes asked to share with various classes, or at other school events, as appropriate.
Our hope is that these immersion experiences enable a gradual conversion of heart where participants are enabled, engaged, and empowered to act as future agents of change.