GAP: The Change

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Superior Hiking Trail, Ely, Minnesota (taken by VOBS staff)

Before the GAP experience I had not experienced learning to the fullest extent through experience. I was an 18 year old senior who had gone to a private school my entire life and done many extracurriculars on top of that. These included many qualifying factors to get me into the GAP program including Badger Boys State and Wisconsin Leadership Seminar. The two characteristics that I valued most coming into this semester were my ability to form new connections with whoever I meet and my extreme desire to learn the unknown. These characteristics along with the qualifications prepared me for the strenuous time in the boundary waters, the intense segregation we learned about in Chicago and Albuquerque, and finally our time exploring the culturally rich Guatemala. Coming into this semester I desired adventure and a new experience, the GAP program served as a chance to participate in the college coursework and combine it with experiential learning giving it a sense of adventure.  The final aspiration I had that I wrote about in my GAP journal was the call to be a witness to all the people I meet throughout my experience. Along with my skill to connect with others I wanted to be a witness to their personal stories.

Superior Hiking Trail, Ely, Minnesota (taken by Peyton Going)

I have had many great experiences over the past semester beginning with my trip to Minnesota first. Here we took a leadership class working with the VOBS group in the upper North Minnesotan Boundary Waters and Superior Hiking Trail. Here we hiked, canoed, and portaged during the day and set up camp at night. We learned how to  work successfully as a team while taking on these everyday hardships. The instructor assigned each member of the group jobs and had us complete challenges along the way. In addition, we learned how to work well as a team using communication skills such as CFORS and VOMPS. These are two different techniques to solving conflict in the group in a successful way. These techniques we continued to use the rest of the semester to keep a healthy group dynamic. Finally, we learned leadership skills and our five personal leadership traits. These traits helped us to further understand ourselves and what kind of leader we were through an activity called balconies and basements. I changed through this aspect of the trip becoming a stronger and more impactful leader through learning new leadership tactics.

Chicago, Illinois (taken by Tierney Lindeman)

Our next stop of the trip was in Chicago, Illinois currently one of the most segregated United States cities. During this part of the trip we learned about the segregated neighborhoods in Chicago and were able to visit a few of them. We were grouped in a house where we had sessions and classes talking about the systematic violence that was occurring in the Chicago area. We learned about five different forms of injustice which were homelessness, incarceration, education, immigration and food insecurity. We learned how these injustices have causes and effects that perpetuate a cycle of systematic violence in the community. At Cornerstone, a homeless shelter for men, we met the instructor named Vince who gave a very remarkable statistic that “70% of people in poverty were born into it.” This fact gave us a whole new look at the truth of meritocracy that we had been learning in class. A final subject of study during this portion of the semester was on restorative justice. We were able to connect to the Chicago community by learning of the few courts switching to restorative justice for nonviolent crimes. I will take the new knowledge of systematic violence in our country and work to make a change in the surrounding communities.

Albuquerque, New Mexico (taken by Peyton Going)

From Chicago we took a train ride down to Albuquerque and El Paso where we learned of even more injustices occurring toward the Native American and Immigrant populations. In class, in Albuquerque, we learned of many of the racial injustices throughout United States history through readings from W.E.B. Dubois and Booker T. Washington. On top of this we visited many Native American tribes, such as the Pueblo people of Acoma, and learned about their cultures and traditions. After a few days we went to El Paso Texas where we learned of the struggles of being an immigrant in the United States either legally or undocumented. We met with an immigration lawyer and learned how hard it is to become a legal citizen as well as witnessing a live trial of arrested immigrants. These two portions helped us to see the legal side behind immigration and the hardships immigrants faced through the United States laws and courts. In addition, we saw the personal side of immigration through stories from many immigrants about the struggles they went through individually as and as families and how hard it is to make a life for themselves; another instance of the idea of the myth of meritocracy we learned in Chicago. This was truly inspiring for me because I was able to see the struggles immigrants had to go through and having the courage to immigrate to The United States. This inspired me to want to volunteer to help immigrant families try to stabilize their new homes in the United States.

Antigua, Guatemala (taken by Amber Latimer)

Our final stop was in a middle sized town in Guatemala called San Miguel Escobar a town near Antigua. This trip helped us wrap the entire semester of learning with one final trip. Here we learned about the 36 year long civil war that was later classified as a genocide. It occurred during the communist era of the 1950s when people were persecuted for their personal identities and backgrounds. Eventually, the citizens of Guatemala decided to fight back creating a retaliation group called the guerillas. The purpose of the guerillas was to combat the oppressive government. This is the reason the genocide began; the military used this as an excuse to murder any person who could have a potential tie to the guerillas. They used this as reason to burn and mass murder, killing entire cities through grotesque and immoral ways.  In addition, we learned about the valuable role the students of San Pablo University played in the move toward an end to oppression and persecution. They were regarded as intellectuals and when they heard about the injustices occurring in the small communities of the country they worked to stop them and bring justice and equality to the people. In Guatemala a valuable trait I will be taking back to my life on campus is the new intelligence of the United States participation in the Guatemalan civil war and in the future to be aware of my own countries foreign affairs.

San Miguel Escobar (taken by Amber Latimer)

Post GAP experience I feel like a much more educated student and citizen some of the main takeaways from this experience include the new communication skills we learned in the Boundary Waters. I will also take more action in the issues surrounding the injustices occurring around the United States such as segregation and classification of people based off their identities. The truth about immigration became evident to me inspiring me to consider volunteering to help immigrant families. The final lesson I learned was to keep track of my countries foreign affairs and be an educated and active citizen. I can use all these to help build connections and work for the common good on Norbert campus and the surrounding Green Bay area.