With Liberty and Justice for All

As today is the 4th of July, it was a day off of work that was supposed to be dedicated to celebrating the United States. The US is the land of the free and home of the brave, but today I have questions running through my head criticizing just that. Don’t get me wrong, I am proud to be an American. Flying back from studying abroad, I felt a sense of peace and excitement when the plane touched down in New York. I have a sister in the military currently stationed overseas. I am especially grateful for all those who have served or are currently serving our nation.

However, on Thursday at school when telling the students we won’t have school tomorrow because of Independence Day, one boy stated, “But I’m Mexican.” Now many students have written in their daily journals about how they feel privileged to be in this country, to have opportunities that many of their friends and families in Mexico do not have, and they understand the risks, difficulties, and sacrifices their parents have made to provide a better life for them. However, these same students are facing difficult situations due to the US’s immigration policy. Each morning the announcements begin with the Pledge of Allegiance. All students are expected to stand and be respectful. However, most students stand in silence and it doesn’t seem right to force them to say this pledge when their families have been torn apart due to deportation and strict immigration policy denying many seeking the better life that America promises.

Similarly, I am also reminded about my recent trip to Trinidad and meeting with Vision on Mission, a NGO helping formerly incarcerated and deported individuals reintegrate into society. One man we met was deported from the US after being a permanent resident for over fifty years and serving in the US military for 25 years, fighting in Iraq during Desert Storm.. He was forced return to his “home country,” although he left Trinidad as a toddler and had no friends or family there.

Working with my students has been an incredible, eye-opening experience for me and I love going to work every morning. I’m sad we’re over halfway through the program, but am really looking forward to all the fun field trips we have planned. The kids test me and push me to my limits at times, but it’s been an amazing educational experience and teaching as a career is weighing heavier on my heart each and every day.

Erin O’Connor ’15