“What Will I Do Next?” — Mercy Student Reflects on D.C. Immersion Program

June 12, 2018

By Lily Antonowicz, Georgian Court University student

Students, faculty members and staff from six Mercy colleges and universities visited Washington, D.C., May 20-24 to participate in a D.C. Immersion Program. The program is sponsored by the Conference for Mercy Higher Education. Lily, one of the student participants, reflects on her experience here:

Georgian Court students Emma Pierre, Lily Antonowicz, Maddie Barrale and Daniel Ginchereau pose in front of the White house during some free time to explore the city.

Georgian Court students Emma Pierre, Lily Antonowicz, Maddie Barrale and Daniel Ginchereau pose in front of the White house during some free time to explore the city.

When a student has great opportunity presented to them, the greatest outcomes are possible. When my classmates and I left for this experience we were curious and ready to take on whatever came our way; little did we know how much we would get the chance to experience and advocate.

Inspiring Conversations

The first couple days of this experience were so amazing because we got to meet new people and hear diverse ideas and perspectives not only on immigration policy, but also on how it affects ourselves, others and our campuses as a whole. With other students and faculty from Carlow University, Gwynedd Mercy University, Misericordia University and Mount Mercy University, we found our conversations bursting with ideas on how to become knowledgeable on the issues surrounding corrupt policy on immigration and border patrol. We also learned how to advocate and make our campuses more aware of these issues. Our world paints a very simple picture of how certain situations play out, but with us all together we realized how complex every person is, and how therefore no situation affecting a human being can be grouped into one category.

Advocacy on Campus

We developed new ideas to educate our campus about immigration and to spark interest in social justice. We decided that we could start a Social Justice club at Georgian Court University and advocate for social justice to be taught in general education courses. Having this opportunity to develop ideas for advocacy helped us learn how to express what we believe and feel passionate about. None of our thoughts on DACA and immigration was completely the same, but we all found effective ways to communicate how we felt.

Advocacy on the Hill

After our conversations, I felt extremely blessed that I had the opportunity to express my passion to the staffers of the Senate and House of Representatives. Though most agreed with our desire to help find a better pathway for citizenship and decrease funding for aggressive border patrol that separates families and divides humanity, some did not agree completely. Of course, this was shocking and frustrating for me and my fellow classmates, but the challenge only fueled us even more. What was most important to me in facing these conflicts was that I realized the conversations on policy are difficult for a reason. It was exciting to encounter diverse perspectives, but it was equally disheartening to feel as though the government takes the humanity out of the policies they enact.

Though there were difficult moments, I felt more unified with my fellow GCU students. Being a Mercy university is something we all take pride in, and spreading the word about how we feel humans should be treated is a cause for which we will never stop advocating.

Reflecting on the Experience

Learning about Mercy advocacy not only drew me closer to my wonderful Georgian Court peers, but it also sparked my drive to advocate even more for those who cannot do so themselves, both on and off campus. Though these conversations are difficult to have, they are necessary when people’s lives are being treated as if they are disposable.

This experience has shown me that every person has worth on this planet. It has also shown me that immigration is a lot more complex of an issue than I had realized—it requires breaking millions of barriers instead of building one wall. We want hearts to be filled with compassion. We want to inspire individuals to fight for justice. What kind of humans would we be if we only thought of ourselves?

Biology Professor Brunella Bowditch and students Lily Antonowicz, Daniel Ginchereau, Maddie Barrale and Emma Pierre outside the office of Senator Menendez in advance of a meeting with staff to discuss immigration policies.

Biology Professor Brunella Bowditch and students Lily Antonowicz, Daniel Ginchereau, Maddie Barrale and Emma Pierre outside the office of Senator Menendez in advance of a meeting with staff to discuss immigration policies.

Mercy has taught me these things:

  • You never know what gifts of humanity you are denying by building up walls and tearing apart lives.
  • Hearts do not wear the label “immigrant” or “citizen.”
  • Government must hear the voices that want justice to prevail.

This trip was the start of advocacy in my life, but it certainly did not end when I returned home. In fact, the only thought I had was, what will I do next? A world of Mercy awakens me, and I could not be more grateful for this gift I was so lucky to experience.

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  1. Natalie Rossi

    Thanks for sharing. Experiences like you just had do open one’s eyes to the complexity of issues. Glad you will continue your advocacy work. Many prayers


  2. Mike Poulin

    Keep advocating and sharing your story, Lily!


  3. Sister Mary Cabrini Taitano, RSM

    You are an inspiring young woman! Thanks for this reflection which reached all the way to Guam!


  4. Evelyn Quinn

    I am most grateful to the Justice Team for providing this experience to our Mercy students. It is experiences like this that impact both their intellect and their hearts as they embrace Mercy during their university experience!


  5. Brunella Bowditch

    Coming to D.C. for this advocacy program, with all four of you students, was an amazing experience. Your reflection is thoughtful and insightful. I feel strongly that you and your friends will contribute to sharing what you have learned with the entire Georgian Court community, and that this will make a difference in our community understanding more thoroughly the human issue of immigration.