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Washington Semester Award Winner to Present Lecture on Unaccompanied Children in America’s Immigration System

March 31st, 2015 by 
Jacob Medina

The Center for Interdisciplinary Studies at the College of the Holy Cross has selected Jacob Medina ’16, an economics major from Avon, Conn., as the 2014 fall semester’s Maurizio Vannicelli Washington Semester Away Program award recipient. Medina will present a lecture titled “The Golden Door?: Unaccompanied Alien Children in America’s Immigration System” on Wednesday, April 8 at 4 p.m. in the Rehm Library on campus. The event is free and open to the public.

While a first-year student at Holy Cross, Medina worked as a tutor at Ascentria Care Alliance (formerly Lutheran Social Services of New England) for the Unaccompanied Refugee Minors Program in Worcester. He enjoyed getting to know the children at Ascentria so much that he decided to take his commitment a step further and apply to become a Community-Based Learning Intern with the Donelan Office of Community-Based Learning. As part of the internship he became the coordinator for the Ascentria site, where he expanded the College’s partnership with the site to offer services including mentoring, life skills, and music components.

His work in Worcester compelled him to apply to the Washington Semester Program and pursue an internship with Kids In Need of Defense (KIND). In D.C., he was able to learn about immigration law, meet with experts in the field, and attend various events as well as hearings and panels on the subject of immigration. During his internship Medina was tasked to interview children and to see what legal services they qualified for and to contact families and update them on the status of their court cases. While the interviews with the children proved to be emotionally difficult they were part of a greater learning experience for Medina.

“My experiences in Washington D.C. were incredibly formative and I learned so many life lessons from speaking with unaccompanied children and their caretakers,” says Medina.

Gary DeAngelis, associate director for special programs and director of the Washington Semester Program at the College, says “the Washington Program is not just an opportunity to examine, first hand, the public policy process in Washington but, for most, it is a life transforming experience enabling students to discover the value of a liberal arts education in a high powered professional environment and how to affect change.”

Future plans for Medina include working as an investment banking summer analyst in New York City, an internship he received through the Career Planning Center at Holy Cross. He is also in the process of co-founding a nonprofit called the Student Empowerment Program (StEP). The mission of the program is to ensure that every student has access to educational tools and resources. The organization provides students in after-school programs access to tablets so that can learn by playing interactive educational games instead of traditional workbook activities. After receiving a Marshall Memorial Fund Grant from the Donelan Office and receiving funding from Student Programs for Urban Development (SPUD) the tablet program was launched in after-school programs across the Worcester area. Medina says StEP is trying to secure additional funding with other campus organizations so that when a Holy Cross tutor is sent out on an appointment they have a tablet available to work on with their student.

The Vannicelli Prize is awarded each semester in honor of the late Holy Cross political science professor and Washington Semester director, Maurizio Vannicelli, for the best research paper produced in the Washington Semester program. The recipient of the award is given the opportunity to present a public lecture at the College on his or her thesis. In addition, the recipient receives a bound copy of the thesis and is presented the book award during commencement exercises.

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