Strangers No Longer
SNL Youth Leaders Witness the
Migrant Experience in Traverse City MI
Dear SNL Members and Friends:

As Cherry Festival tourists departed Traverse City this July, fifteen youth leaders and their chaperones arrived for Strangers No Longer’s inaugural Youth Immersion Trip. Their aim was to better understand the experiences of rural immigrant / migrant farmworkers, and then, once back home, take action in response. 

The delegation hailed from Christ the Good Shepherd Parish (Lincoln Park), Detroit Cristo Rey High School (SW Detroit), Shrine High School (Royal Oak), Mercy High School (Farmington Hills), St. Francis High School (Traverse City) and the Boyne Valley Catholic Community (Boyne City and Boyne Falls).
Trip visits and activities included Spanish Mass with Bishop Walsh, a farmworker’s tutorial on picking grapes, a tour of Leelanau Fruit Co.’s processing plant, and a conversation with an immigration lawyer. (For a complete list of activities, click here.)

A key moment of kinship was a conversation with SNL’s Immigrant Women’s Circles of Support, Mujeres Soñadoras and Flores de Maria, which we shared outside their homes in a mobile home neighborhood hidden on Leelanau peninsula. We heard about their fight to win back access to drivers’ licenses, and their efforts to promote health and mental health in their community. They shared about being a minority in rural Michigan, and how Circles of Support have positively impacted them. Their teen children connected with the youth delegation on topics like racism, being an outsider, belonging to two cultures, and holding onto hope.

The youth are excited to bring their experiences back home, and to build Circles of Support. Several students have shared their experiences with us in writing. Excerpts can be found below. Click here to read their their full reflections. 
Much gratitude to Gladys Muñoz, who coordinated many of the details of the trip, and to Silvia Cortes, Fr. Wayne Dziekan and the Our Lady of Guadalupe community, who shared their chapel space with us for the duration of our trip.

Additionally, a big thank you to chaperones, Patty Furtaw, Mel Morrison and Amy Salfali (Boyne Valley Catholic Community), Kim Redigan (Detroit Cristo Rey), Donna Salogar (Shrine), and Holly Tockstein (Christ the Good Shepherd) who spent an immense amount of time and energy making this experience happen.

This trip would not have been possible without you all, and the excellent young people you are supporting in your schools, parishes, and communities. 

Amy Ketner
Co-Director of Leadership Development
Olivia Pineda-Andersen
9th grader - Boyne Valley Catholic Community, Boyne City/Boyne Falls, MI

"When I became fully immersed into the world of the Mexican migrant workers and their lives in Traverse City, there was so much I hoped to help with. I took particular interest in the lives of their children who not only struggle with the ordinary stressors of school, as all of us do, but also working on farms or in factories with their parents."
Hailey Thorstenson
10th grader - Mercy High School, Farmington Hills, MI

"We got to personally meet and talk to many immigrants, immigrant support groups (Circle of Support), and those who work with immigrants, and were educated about their affiliation with immigration. Some of these people were immigrants themselves, and being able to talk, have meals, and hear stories from some of these amazing individuals was truly inspiring. This allowed a realization of so much more that truly goes on compared to what is actually spoken about."
Meghan Mehall
Teen Forum Leadership Council at Christ the Good Shepherd, Lincoln Park, MI
Medical Laboratory Science student at Wayne State University

"The process for proper documentation is a long one, taking an average of over 10 years, and living in America while waiting for a process very outside of your control is made so difficult it makes you wonder if the system is so cruel on purpose.

Though it couldn’t have been easy, they told us how they had been living and fighting for themselves, and hearing their experiences made it obvious how American policies and attitudes deeply affect anyone outside the norm. First generation immigrants and migrants shared with us the pain and strife of starting anew in a place that makes it such a long, arduous, and sometimes impossible process..."
Maya Mehall
Teen Forum Leadership Council at Christ the Good Shepherd, Lincoln Park, MI
Student at Wayne State University

"Being able to talk directly to the immigrant women in Traverse City was so powerful, as the problems and injustices they face became so real. Often, I think we tend to forget about these issues our neighbors face as they don't directly affect us, but making that human connection and seeing that suffering first-hand really reminds you that this is an issue that we all have to come together and fix."
Tori Romatowski 
Teen Forum Leadership Council at Christ the Good Shepherd, Lincoln Park, MI
Secondary Education for English student at Wayne State University

"It is easy to be blinded by our privilege; to not see things that are happening in the world because you yourself are not going through them. The immersion trip we took to Traverse City helped open my eyes to things that migrants coming to the U.S. face."
Kaylee Razo
11th grader – Detroit Cristo Rey, Detroit, MI
Strangers No Longer’s Youth in Action for Immigration Advocacy Chair

"Growing up similarly to the people we visited in Traverse City, knowing too well the fear of having the ones you love most ripped away from you and too often having the short end of the stick, I understood how easy it was to feel drowned with hardships and lose touch with the positive aspects of life. But I felt at ease knowing that there were so many people with a burning passion to help others. It gave me hope for a day when immigrants will be treated with justice."
Cadence Washington
10th grader - Mercy High School, Farmington Hills, MI

"Something else that stood out to me was that through every terrible thing people have been through, their hearts are still pure. The people we spoke to all went through hard things, from watching loved ones get taken away from them to having to hope they don’t get deported for not having a driver's license that they can’t get. But even through these tough times, they kept going. They were resilient. Some people fight to get things like driver's licenses available for migrants and immigrants. Some people work tirelessly to help provide their community with fresh food, good healthcare, and clothing. Some people keep themselves, their families, and their community strong and resilient by welcoming everyone with open hearts and amazing hospitality, the way we were welcomed into our hosts’ homes."
Strangers No Longer
19972 Shrewsbury
Detroit, MI 48221