Community Members Share Immigration Experiences During Class Discussion

Global issues were local for students in Brendon Barrios’ International Relations classes. The upper school students have been studying the United States’ intervention in Latin America from the 1950s onward.

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On Friday, April 23, they heard from individuals inside and outside the Masters community who have been impacted by these policies. 

A panel consisting of Brendon Barrios’ uncle Richard Barrios, Masters grounds staff member Ozue Hernandez, Masters facilities staff member Rober Ruiz and upper school Spanish teacher Roberto Mercedes spoke to students about a range of topics. The panelists, who are respectively from Columbia, Mexico, Peru and the Dominican Republic, delved into immigration policies, the history of U.S. intervention in their countries, shared why they immigrated to the U.S., and how that decision impacted them and their families.

“We wanted to speak with people who had been directly or indirectly affected by this history and seek to hear how this complicated history played into their decision to come to the United States,” Barrios, a member of the History and Religion Department, said. “I hoped that students would not only expand their understanding of U.S. interventions in Latin America from the 1950s onward, but also have a greater appreciation for the impact that intervention had on real people. People right here in our own community.”

For Logan Schiciano ’21, the experience was eye-opening. The senior, who has known Mr. Mercedes since freshman year, shared that “Before this panel, I had never asked him about his previous life in the Dominican Republic. It was really inspiring to learn how his love of music and teaching began there, and how he has managed to carry both along to Masters." 

“Something that resonated with me, and something I really appreciated from the panel was how our speakers were able to preserve their culture after coming to the U.S.,” Carly Grizzaffi ’21 explained. Overall, she felt that “The experience of listening to these panelists connected the facts we learned in class with the real-life experience of immigrating to the United States. I found this very beneficial for obtaining a well-rounded understanding of the topic.”

In addition to reinforcing what they were learning in class, Barrios explained that the value of teaching history through the lens of individual experiences extends beyond academics. For students, he said, “Hearing these stories and being able to carry that with them will only allow them to think more critically, as well as have more empathy, towards the Latinx population within the United States – as well as abroad.” 

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