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The Infinite Impact of Immersions

Q & A with Yajaira Morales-Vidovich '11

Yaya Morales '11 Graduating

It's no surprise that Yajaira "Yaya" Morales-Vidovich has spent the 11 years since graduating in the teaching industry. With a B.A. in English, a B.A. in Spanish, a Minor in Urban Education, a Master's degree in Teaching, and teaching credentials in both Multiple Subjects and Physical Education, she entered the profession well prepared. It was her experience on immersion trips, however, that Yaya credits for shaping not only her professional path, but her personal journey as well. 


During your time at Santa Clara University, how were you involved with the Ignatian Center?
In 2009 I went on the East Los Angeles Immersion and I led the first San Jose immersion trip in 2011. I also worked as a grad student employee in the Immersions program and was an Arrupe Engagement intern.

Describe a significantly impactful moment from your Immersion experience:

Homeboy Industries

The first immersion trip I ever went on, was the East LA immersion trip. I remember when we got to go into Homeboy Industries. It was amazing to see the work that Father Greg Boyle and the Homeboys/girls were doing to support the community. The place was big. There was movement everywhere. A Homeboy took us upstairs and told us about his life. He shared with us how he used to be in a gang and how he was now turning his life around. It was very moving to hear him speak about his relationship with Father Greg Boyle and all the other Homeboys, including ex-members of gangs he used to dislike. I loved seeing the work in action. I loved seeing change in action. It made me feel like we supported the mission of the organization simply by eating at the Homegirl Cafe. We made a small contribution to such a big and important organization.

Has your Immersion experience impacted any decision(s) you have made in your professional life? If so, how?

2011 SJ Immersion Gardens 1

The immersion experience redirected where I wanted to fulfil my desire to be a teacher. On the San Jose Immersion trip, I learned about Sacred Heart Community Service. I saw how many organizations, programming, and people were under this roof and it made me want to work in San Jose and dedicate some time working there. I applied to be an ARRUPE Intern and got placed at SHCS. This is where I helped the most my senior year at SCU and it is also where I learned about Sacred Heart Nativity School and their teaching internship programs. 

As an educator, I have had the pleasure to work at schools that were Catholic, served low-income communities, and underserved populations. I have always carried the desire to expand the worldview of my students - something I learned on my two immersion trips. I have been able to implement programs at the schools in which I’ve worked that help students discover their own worldview and learn about the world community.

This fall, I will be starting a new position at Kipp Esperanza East Palo Alto as a member of the founding faculty, serving as a Dance/PE teacher to the first ever 9th grade class. I am excited to get to know the whole community: students, teachers, staff, parents, and the neighboring community. One of my main hopes as an educator is always to help students understand their value in the world and how they can be of service to others. 

Has your Immersion experience impacted any decision(s) you have made in your personal life? If so, how?

2011 SJ Immersion Gardens 2

Yes, due to my experience on the San Jose Immersion trip, I am very aware about how to be environmentally friendly and garden, and I financially support organizations that need extra income. I also like to volunteer my time at the schools that I work in to make sure students are receiving experiences that will help shape how they see the world. I’ve had the pleasure of leading groups of students to volunteer at places like Sacred Heart Community Service, created immersion trips to East LA, and even assisted in backpacking trips with students. 

How have you seen the impact of your Immersion experience change as time has passed since you participated?
It has been a lasting impact. I am always aware that the way I live my life directly impacts our world in one way or another; how I choose to shop, where I choose to buy my items, and how I use my time at home/work. All of these decisions affect  those I love and those I don’t know. I am cognizant of the fact that this world is more connected than we know.

How did your Immersion experience compare to other experiences you had during your time at SCU, particularly in terms of your understanding of SCU's mission?

2011 SJ Immersions Sacred Heart CC 1

It was by far the most meaningful because it opened my eyes to the realities I had only seen or heard about in books and even though I lived a lot of these struggles myself - as an undocumented student who was from a low-income family--I wasn’t aware of the way communitities like San Jose or East LA try to support each other, help fix the problem, and how they come together to be advocates of change. 

The immersion experience opens your eyes to the realities of the world in ways that the SCU bubble does not. Everything at SCU is so majestically beautiful and the life of the student is so busy, that it is often hard to remember there is a world outside the space of SCU. By immersing yourself in these experiences, you are breaking away from this bubble and stepping into the real world. You are sharing a collective experience with your classmates, facilitators, and the community you go into and learn about issues that you may or may now know about, people who are working endlessly to try and combat these issues, and about how you can be an agent of change. Everyone who comes back from their experiences is always charged with fire and has the desire to want to make change happen now. Then reality sits in, and you realize change is slow and gradual. Change takes time and effort. And while you cannot fix the struggles of the people you learn to care for in these experiences, you learn that the change within you is something you carry onward. You can implement small changes in your daily life to make sure you support the causes and the solutions you learned about. You can find vocations, careers, and opportunities to go and serve in these places, once more. You can work in these communities, as I did, and learn so much more about what change needs to happen and how to support it. 

Every experience, encounter, and person at SCU will change you in one way or another. Some will be forever and some will be momentarily. However, immersion trips change you in ways that cannot be measured with time. 

Any other thoughts on your Immersion experience or any additional comments?
I highly recommend and wish every individual went on an immersion trip. I feel like if more people went on immersion trips people's eyes would be opened to inequalities and hardships, and more people would be willing to lend a hand to others.