For the third consecutive year, the Eastern Kentucky University Honors Program’s innovative “Sidewalk U.” course took students to the U.S.-Mexico border for a week of intensive experiential learning.
In early January, Nogales and Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico, served as living laboratories in which students spoke with local residents, migrants, law enforcement officials, recent deportees and humanitarian relief organizations. Students explored the border fence in both communities and examined art and graffiti on the barrier’s Mexican side.
Community partner organizations in Nogales and Agua Prieta served as hosts to the EKU group, providing access to local shelters and community centers. In Nogales, Arizona, longtime Sheriff Tony Estrada provided the students an overview of changes along the border based on his 50 years of experience in local law enforcement. New this year was a visit to a remote, deeply rural section of the border in the desert of far southeastern Arizona. Students had the opportunity there to speak with a couple who live on a property that abuts a segment of short vehicle-barrier fencing in a very remote and rarely traversed section of the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Sidewalk U. provided deep insight into many of today’s most controversial topics concerning the U.S.-Mexico border,” said Jenna Johnson, a first-year honors student and communications disorders major from Corbin, Kentucky. “Having this opportunity has given me the chance to start conversations and speak with first-hand knowledge about border controversies.”
Sophomore honors student and pre-med chemistry major Katie Rogers added: “Going on Sidewalk U. has helped me understand that there are more issues at the border than just migration. Various problems – including overpopulation, chemical misuse and polluted water – are damaging to people, animals and the land of the region.”
Students on the trip included Sydney Amos, Arpana Banjara, Skylar Carter, Lexy Dahl-Walls, Olivia Jennings, Jenna Johnson, Libby Jones, Sophie Owen, Lucas Powell, Karla Rodriguez, Katie Rogers, Caroline Schack, Ricky Siefert, Selsey Stribling and Kaitlyn VanWay. Dr. Elizabeth Underwood of the Department of Anthropology, Sociology, and Social Work and Dr. Tom Butler of the Department of English are the instructors for the course. Honors Program Executive Director Dr. David Coleman also accompanied the group and served as a Spanish-English translator.