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Chauncey Shillow’s Story

Abre tu boca por los mudos, por los derechos de todos los desdichados.” — Proverbios 31:8

I met Evelyn when she walked into my theatre class five and a half years ago. At that time, I did not know how much she would give to me, those students, or their school. Now I know that she dedicates herself to the success of others. During that fall semester, I gave my students a reflective project. Each student had to write a monologue about a personal experience in his or her life. Then another student memorized the monologue and performed it under the direction of the student who wrote it. On the day before the performance, Evelyn burst into tears during rehearsal. I called her that evening to check on her and to try to ease what I thought was stage fright. She explained to me that stage fright was not the issue. “It just got to me. I realized that people are going to hear our stories.” As a sophomore, she recognized that the success of her partner and the success of the class depended on her faithfulness in communicating her partner’s story. And she owned it.

That was just the beginning. That same year, I consistently caught Evelyn serving the leadership class and the yearbook class by performing duties in and out of school that needed to be done – even though she was not a member of either class! Whether it meant cleaning an auditorium after an assembly or building a set or helping distribute information, Evelyn led her peers through her example of service. As an upperclassman, she led the push for students to become politically and civically involved in issues that pertained to them. From her involvement with Dream Act Oklahoma, an organization advocating for equality for immigrants, and Too Much To Lose (2M2L), a program that encouraged teenagers to live free from alcohol abuse, Evelyn engaged her peers and her community in positive social change. She mobilized them to succeed and to live.

But Evelyn’s service didn’t change one of the most fundamental aspects of her civic engagement – her ability to stay in the country. Evelyn was brought to the United States when she was four years old by her mother who sought safety from a dangerous situation in Mexico. Although Evelyn is a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, on any given day her status as an advocate and a mobilizer could dissipate.

Evelyn’s story is not unique. Formerly as a teacher and now as a pastor, I have seen the heart ripped out of families who want to provide a safe environment for their children. The trembling grimace of a freshman student trying to prove his manhood against the system that deported his mother, the hopelessness of a graduating senior with no options to pursue higher education, the attempted laughter of a wife trying to cope with the sequestration of a husband – unless you’ve walked this emotional road with human immigrants, you may think immigration is just another issue to watch debated on C-SPAN.

But for me, I can’t sit on a couch and watch C-SPAN while Evelyn walks this uncertain road. I am walking El Camino del Inmigrante so she won’t have to walk alone.

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