Seniors bring ARISE Adelante’s mission to King Street


Caterina Pye '23

Sacred Heart Greenwich seniors visit Texas border communities to learn and serve immigrant communities.

Over the summer, Sacred Heart Greenwich seniors Ana López del Punta, Elsa Latrille, Nadia Borja, Caterina Pye, Gabi Pye, Blakely Tusa, Zara Black, and Annie Finn participated in a new service trip to the Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas.  They experienced the realities of immigrant life, working primarily with undocumented Hispanic immigrants.  Sra. Montserrat García, Upper School World Language Teacher and Network Exchange Coordinator, and Mr. Michael Maida, Upper School Math Teacher, initiated this new opportunity in partnership with the ARISE Adelante (ARISE) community-based program.

ARISE responds to the needs of the Hispanic border communities living in the four colonias.  The colonias are housing developments along the Mexican-American border in which residents lack essential services, such as drinking water, sewage treatment, and paved roads, according to  There are four ARISE centers, located in Muñiz Colonia, Las Milpas Colonia, South Tower Colonia, and Hargill Colonia.  In addition to providing necessary resources, each center designs programs and workshops to encourage leadership and personal development in participants, especially the youth and women, according to arisesotex.orgARISE also inspires awareness surrounding immigration, housing, and the environment.

The Sacred Heart seniors and teachers worked mainly at Colonia Muñiz, where they learned the importance of these social justice issues.  Specifically, they witnessed firsthand the oftentimes neglected colonias and the struggles of the residents.  Sra. García described her reaction when visiting the colonias for the first time.

“When we visited the colonias, I don’t think we realized how isolated they were from the rest of the country,” Sra. García said.  “We knew colonias were housing developments, but I don’t think we truly knew the conditions in which these people lived.  Many people living in these communities have built their own homes.  They do not have access to public transportation, street lights, sewage treatment, et cetera.  These colonia communities are completely alienated.” 

Students visit the Mexican-American border wall.  Caterina Pye ’23

While in the colonias, the seniors spent their mornings with the children from Colonia Muñiz before participating in the Border Witness Program.  The mission of the Border Witness Program is to connect the reality of the people living in the Rio Grande Valley to those who wish to understand it, according to  Each day featured a different activity for the seniors to experience immigrant life and broaden their knowledge about the topic.  For instance, students visited the Humanitarian Respite Center and La Posada Providencia, heard a first-hand account of Ms. Theresa Azuara’s immigrant journey, and toured the border wall.  Elsa explained how Ms. Ramona Casas and Ms. Eva Soto, ARISE staff members, charged the seniors with the task of spreading awareness to help remove damaging stereotypes.

“Spreading awareness about what is going on at the border is crucial because many people are misinformed about the actual situation,” Elsa said.  “Part of this is a result of distance; when people live far away from an issue, it can be hard to relate.  Many choose to ignore the crisis since it does not directly affect them.  Hearing and passing on people’s stories gives personal meaning to this often highly politicized issue; awareness shines light on the profound individual tragedies that are a product of this larger problem.”

Sacred Heart seniors also planned crafts, physical activities, and water-related games for the children to combat the Texas heat through the summer program.  These children living in the colonias have experienced hardships such as the deportation of family, having no parental figures in their homes. Some children are part of the foster care system.  To help divert their minds, the program entertains the children and provides a stable sense of community for them.  Elsa described how ARISE allowed the seniors and children to forge tight bonds that will remain with them forever.

Being at the summer camp every day of our trip solidified strong bonds between our group and the children.  As we got to know their unique personalities, they, in turn, learned more about us; they chose to put their trust in us, and we all grew very close as a result.  Every day, we brought them new activities, while they brought us new energy that served to enrich our time together,” Elsa said.  “I think I can speak for all of us when I say that I am deeply grateful for the chance I was given to meet all of these remarkable children and spend some time in their world.”

The seniors and children play with water balloons.  Courtesy of Ms. Alex Bolanos ’15

Upon their return to King Street, the seniors felt motivated to establish the ARISE Adelante Club to educate the Sacred Heart community.  They aim to broaden perspectives about immigrant life and to share the stories of their experience.  The children and community of the colonias inspired the trip members through their positive attitudes even as they endured hardships at early ages.  Annie explained the impact children’s resilience had on her.

I would describe the positivity and optimism the people at ARISE showed as powerful.  It was powerful in the sense that all of the children we worked with were so quick to latch on to us and care about us right off the bat.  They really only wanted meaningful connections,” Annie said.  “I learned the importance of living life wholeheartedly and not being distracted by material things.  Also, we learned how something as simple as happiness can be so complex because we met many people who had reasons to be unhappy, yet they chose intentionally to live life to the fullest and embrace the time that they have.”

Featured Image by Caterina Pye ’23