Spreading Understanding of Unaccompanied Children Among New Jersey High School Students

May 23, 2024

Windows of understanding projectEarlier this month, 20 students from New Brunswick High School participated in a social justice and art workshop led by KIND’s New Jersey Office, the New Jersey Consortium for Immigrant Children, and the Windows of Understanding project. The workshop was part of KIND’s collaboration with Windows of Understanding and artist Tamara Torres. The purpose of the workshop was to educate students about unaccompanied children; many of the students were unfamiliar with who unaccompanied children are, why they come to the United States alone, and the challenges they face.  

Erin Sweeney, Equal Justice Works Fellow and an attorney at KIND’s Newark office, kicked off the workshop with an introduction to KIND and an overview of the children we serve. Alysia Colon, program associate from the nonprofit organization New Jersey Consortium for Immigrant Children, spoke to the students about policy work being conducted in New Jersey on behalf of unaccompanied children and immigrant children and families, including a proposed bill that would protect the privacy of people without documentation who seek services.  

The youth were extremely engaged and asked questions about how children become unaccompanied and are identified at the border, the options unaccompanied and other undocumented children have in school for gaining status, and if KIND hosts interns. 

After learning about the challenges unaccompanied children face, artist Tamara Torres led students through a workshop in which the students expressed their feelings through discussion and art. Students did free drawing on a piece of paper, ripped up the paper, and glued the pieces together on another piece of paper. Some students drew lines going in many directions with lots of colors to reflect how frustrating and confusing the immigration situation of their peers feels to them. Other students used their artwork to show images of hope. One student decided not to color his paper, to reflect the emptiness of how some immigrant youth may feel, and then took his pieces to make a set of wings indicating unaccompanied children trying to spread their wings and fly.  

Sweeney appreciated the impact of the event. “It gave me a lot of inspiration to see how interested and engaged the participating students were in the topic,” she said. “They are the next generation of leaders in our country, and to see how concerned they are about their peers and other immigrant children in our state left me inspired and hopeful for the future.”