By Hector Arrieta, Editor in Chief, and Nathaniel Zavala, Photo Editor
An awe-inspiring view of the Grand Canyon, the scenery of the open road surrounded by vast deserts and blue skies, the interaction with both members of an indigenous culture and adults with special needs: these are just three of the experiences that students will have during Campus Ministry’s annual Navajo Immersion Trip. Over 30 students have applied for the trip, but only 18 spots are available.
The eighth trip of its kind is scheduled for April 12-19, 2019. This year’s installment of the trip has reached a long way from its introduction in 2012. The Navajo Immersion Trip was formulated as the replacement for a discontinued service trip in Tijuana, where students built houses and experienced the Mexican culture.
“We found that it was mainly students who felt like that was their culture wanted to go on that trip, and students who felt like that wasn’t their culture didn’t feel like the trip was for them,” said Ms. Chambers, Director of Campus Ministry. “We wanted to try and find a culture that would be new for all students.”
After discovering a spring break trip that University of Southern California students take to Navajo Nation, Ms. Chambers was able to secure contact information for two members of the Navajo Nation. From there, Ms. Chambers set up a trip with the two men.
“It seemed really sketchy that first year because there were really no set plans,” commented Ms. Chambers on the first Navajo Trip. “One of the guys, Nelson, on the phone all he says is ‘yup,’ so trying to plan this trip with a person who I don’t know, and his answer to every question is ‘yup,’ and doesn’t really give any other info is a little concerning considering we’re taking 12 students out there.”
However, as the Navajo Immersion Trip continued and kept evolving, the logistical issues from the first outing were finely tuned, and this has become one of Chambers’ favorite Campus Ministry activities.
“It’s an absolutely amazing experience that I look forward to every year,” said Chambers.
In addition, new members of the Campus Ministry team have expressed their expectations
and excitement for the trip.
“It is my first time working with a Native American population, and I’m pretty excited about it,” said Molly Fruland, Christian Service Assistant. “I’m just expecting the kids to have a good time. I’m expecting it to be an enriching experience, I mean not only for the students, but for the staff as well. I hope I grow and see new things, and try to enlarge my world a little bit too.”
Students and faculty members who attended the previous year’s Navajo Trip had memorable and impactful experiences.
“What I really remember is that I feel really proud of all the students who went with us,” recounted Eduardo Magaña, Spanish Department Chair. “The fact that they were very helpful and very friendly with the people they met over there. And they were asking questions; they were interested to learn about the Navajo culture and traditions. That was very important because they showed respect for another culture and were open to help other people.”
“The most memorable thing from the trip was going inside the sweat lodge,” recounted
senior Ricardo Guevara. “It just felt relaxing, and hearing Nelson talk about his culture in there, and about his life in general was just beautiful.” Originally from tribes of the Great Plains, a sweat lodge, or “Sweat,” is a pan-Indian purification ceremony that is offered for prayer and healing.
Students who have applied to the trip also shared their excitement about the idea of
learning about a new culture and of helping the communities in questions on their applications. Selection of the 18 participants will take place before the return to school in January, and those selected to participate will be notified upon the return to school.
“I expect to see the different cultures and how the people live,” said junior Jonathan Ayala.
However, before the students can embark on the trip, they will need funds in order to
purchase food, gas, and to pay for motels. The trip will be funded through ongoing fundraising efforts that will be determined and announced in the months leading up to the trip.