UT Dallas Magazine

Students Awarded For Humanitarian Work in Mexico

Samee Ahmad plays with the child of one of the migrants at the shelter.

At the end of a summer internship, seven students opted to stay for an additional four weeks in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, but Ben Wroblewski, Samee Ahmad, Clisha D’Souza and Linda Schiller embarked on a decidedly bolder course.

The students left Oaxaca and drove five hours outside of the city, on a bus and via mountain roads to the remote Hermanos en el Camino (Brothers in the Road) shelter, where they would stay alongside the migrants, many of who were fleeing violent crimes and terrible conditions in South America.

At an appreciation breakfast held Wednesday by the Center for U.S. Latin American Initiatives (CUSLAI), those four students were presented with the Global Citizen Award for their extraordinary efforts during the extended stay last summer.

The students were part of a larger group of 18 that traveled to Oaxaca for the Culture and Society in Mexico Study Abroad, a six-week program that included field work, language instruction, visiting historic sites and volunteering at local shelters. Accompanying them were teaching assistant Laurel Kirk and Dr. Monica Rankin, the director of CUSLAI and associate professor of history in the School of Arts and Humanities.

Before the four students embarked, Rankin informed them of the poor living conditions they would be facing: desert heat with no AC, little protection from insects and the elements, and isolation from modern amenities or medical care. The students were unrelenting in their decision, and even donated their living stipend, which would have been used on food and lodging in Oaxaca, to the shelter to offset the burden of housing them.

“I was completely humbled by what good people these students are,” Rankin said.

In honor of the students inspiring dedication to administering humanitarian aid beyond their original plans, Rankin, along with board members, voted to create the CUSLAI Global Citizen Award. They hope the award both edifies their students’ exemplary efforts and offers inspiration for future humanitarians.

–Chase Carter

From the left: Teaching assistant Laurel Kirk, Kaitlyn Luckock, Christopher Tran, Mariana Huerta, Clisha D’Souza, Tiffany Nguyen, Linda Schiller, CUSLAI program director Monica Rankin and research assistant Toni Loftin at the recent awards breakfast.