In the world today there are boundless factors pulling youth to and fro. With so many opportunities to chase after it can be confusing and overwhelming to find a life path after college. The Border Fellows program provides direction and learning opportunities for young adults looking to take advantage of this unique time of life.
Ciudad Nueva has co-led the Border Fellows program since 2010, hosting sixteen recent college graduates over that time period. Those participants have committed a year to service, learning, and spiritual growth while participating in the work we do here at Ciudad Nueva and in other organizations in the area.
So, what exactly is a Border Fellow?
The Border Fellows program is a part of the larger Fellows Initiative which acts as a parent organization for many similar programs across the United States. During their ten-month term, participants work part time in the mornings, volunteer at Ciudad Nueva in the afternoons, and complete graduate coursework that helps them consider the context and direction of their lives. They also participate in Bible study and theological discussion as well as mentoring in the local church and workplace.
Our local program is operated as a partnership between Ciudad Nueva, St. Clement’s Church, and La Frontera Youth Ministry Education. The byline of the entire program is “Start Well,” which is a good expression of the goal of the program. The idea is for young people to take advantage of a key time in their lives right after college when they can reflect on their values and beliefs, gain valuable experience, and set a course for future work in the context of faith and community.
A worthy investment of time, energy, and heart
Over the last seven years the Border Fellows have been a huge asset to Ciudad Nueva, partner churches, area businesses, and the local community. They have worked at many local businesses and organizations in a variety of different roles, such as administration, construction, sales, marketing, communication, addiction recovery services, transitional housing, immigration legal assistance, women’s empowerment, ESL, and workforce development.
At the same time they have volunteered at Ciudad Nueva in all of our programs – supporting families and elementary, middle, and high school students. Having a new set of college-educated, energetic young volunteers every year has been a huge boost to all of our programs. The have brought new ideas and enthusiasm as well as a commitment to relationships with our staff and community members. They have even helped start new programs that continue today, such as the Immigration Legal Services program at Ciudad Nueva.
“Our Border Fellows really connect with the Ciudad Nueva community,” says Yoli Milliorn, the Border Fellows program director. “They attend St. Clement’s Church as well, and they feel supported and well loved in both of those communities.”
Harvesting the long term results
Almost half of the program graduates have remained in El Paso after their year is completed – working at Ciudad Nueva or at other local businesses or churches. Our middle school and high school programs are currently run by former Border Fellows Simon Lu and Keisha Branch who have each joined the Ciudad Nueva staff after their Border Fellows year.
“The longest-lasting benefit of the program is that the participants have loved the community so much they have decided to stay for a longer term,” says Yoli. “They love the community and love serving here so they stay another year or more before going on to their next step. They also feel that they have invested something in the community and want to see that investment grow further by working longer here.”
Border Fellows have continued to be involved with the Ciudad Nueva community in other ways as well. Many continue with monthly financial support and by staying in touch regularly with kids they mentored in our programs. Some of the older students have bonded so closely with the Border Fellows that they have gone on trips or vacations together after graduating high school. Many Border Fellows return to El Paso, some regularly, to visit families and students they bonded with while here.
A Border Fellow graduate recently opened up her apartment in New York City during Christmas break to host one of her former Ciudad Nueva mentees, who is now a Freshman at college in Rhode Island, since she didn’t have the funds to return to El Paso for the holidays.
Those Border Fellows who have moved on since their term have used their experiences here to propel them into many pursuits:
- Graduate school and seminary
- Social work
- Medical school and law school
- Consulting with foundations
- Starting community development projects
- Supporting church work
- Working with youth
- Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL)
- Coordinating study abroad programs
The richness of their experiences during their Border Fellows tenure continues to inform and guide them, and we at Ciudad Nueva are so grateful to be part of such a fruitful program. And we are also grateful for the long-term relationships built that continue to enrich the life of our community.