The Effect of the Friday Experience

When I came to Project Transformation, I thought I was destined to become a teacher. I knew I loved kids, loved learning, loved reading, and loved being around people. My passions lay in helping others learn and grow and become who they were meant to be. What better profession, then, than teaching? As a matter of fact, the very aspect of Project Transformation that appealed to me was the reading program. I thought that this summer would be a great chance to use what I had learned in my education classes and to help impact the lives of some kids who needed it. How could I pass up the chance to do all this while growing closer to God in the process? It turns out I was right about the amazing reading program and amazing kids; however, this summer has opened my eyes to all of the ways I can impact kids besides teaching. Project Transformation has not only helped me transform children; I’ve transformed myself and my vision of how I will give back.

At lunch one day, I was sitting next to one of my favorite boys in our Youth program. His behavior usually leaves much to be desired, despite the fact that he was funny, friendly, smart, and talented. We were talking about his family, and he casually mentioned that he can’t visit several of his brothers and sisters because they live in Mexico. He told me that he can’t go visit them because he wouldn’t be able to get back, because he is an undocumented immigrant. The fact that he so casually admitted this fact to me, and then casually talked about his family’s sad situation, amazed me. This moment was my first step along my journey of realizing that my passion might not necessarily lay in teaching these children to read, but in connecting them to their family and in helping them journey towards a better life.

Recently, I went on a Friday Experience where we got to listen to an attorney who works at Justice For Our Neighbors, a non-profit agency that helps low-income immigrants file for legal status in the United States. Her stories about her clients amazed and inspired me, and her job intrigued me. After listening to her speak and getting to know my youth and their situations more, I may have found a new passion: helping immigrants to our country find a home here and become productive, happy citizens. My passions for education are still there; however, I might have just found the place where I am meant to serve. My love for the kids I work with has not changed; however, now I see an opportunity to serve them that just might make more of an impact than I had hoped I could make. I am so thankful to God for leading me to Project Transformation and for the incredible youth I work with every day; they are my reason for waking up in the morning, and now they are the reason that I want to explore my options with working in immigration law. I thought Project Transformation would help me transform others, but in the end, I was the one who was transformed.

Catie Gilliland
Elmwood Youth Intern
Birmingham-Southern College

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