The Border Fellows program, a ministry of St. Clement’s Church, Ciudad Nueva Community Outreach, and La Frontera Youth Ministry Education, is a 10-month work and service leadership development program on the U.S.–Mexico border. It is part of a larger community of fellows programs across the United States called The Fellows Initiative.
A Gift for Creating Community
For the last two years, incoming Border Fellows Director, Jennifer Shinn, and her husband have been hosting a weekly Sunday night dinner for a group of young adults they fondly refer to as “displaced twentysomethings.”
The group is comprised of young men and women who have moved to El Paso on their own, leaving the safety and comfort of family and friends behind. They find themselves trying to make their way in an unfamiliar city during a time when so much else about their lives can feel uncertain.
“We always do some kind of art project during the Sunday night dinners,” Jen says. “It allows people who are being told that they have to grow up a very safe place to be a child again. Nothing brings out the child in a twentysomething like making slime!
Jen knows that as fun as creating something can be, it can also be profoundly meaningful. After all, she points out, “the Bible starts with the words ‘In the beginning, God created.’
A Passion for Young Adults
In addition to hosting weekly dinners for El Paso’s “displaced twentysomethings,” Jen has also served as a Border Fellows mentor. “I really love working with this age group,” she says.
Outgoing Border Fellows Director, Yoli Milliorn, took note of Jen’s passion for young adults and invited her to consider applying for the position when it came open. “I wasn’t looking for a job,” Jen says, “but my interest was piqued. The more I learned about the position, the more I was interested.”
Sami DiPasquale, Ciudad Nueva’s Executive Director, knew Jen was the right person for the job because of her “passion for walking alongside, mentoring, and supporting young people.”
A Vision for the Future
As the Border Fellows Director, Jen will oversee all aspects of the Border Fellows program, including recruitment, orientation, support, connections, and follow-up for the border fellows each year. She will work closely with Sami to ensure that the vision for the program is successfully implemented.
“My vision,” Sami says, “has always been to cultivate opportunities for young adults to understand the border from a variety of perspectives, gain an understanding of long-term transformational community development, build relationships with people from different sectors of El Paso, build bridges and understanding between these groups, and develop a sustained desire and ability to reach out to the marginalized in the communities where fellows settle.”
Jen is excited to help bring this vision to life. “I want the program to be the best version of itself that it can be,” she says.
Before coming to Ciudad Nueva, Jen worked for 13 years as the Chapel Coordinator for the contemporary service on Fort Bliss. Prior to that, she served on the board of the Protestant Women of the Chapel, holding numerous positions during her 15-year tenure. She and her husband have recently started attending St. Clements, where her younger daughter is a youth pastor.
What You Can Do to Help
The success of the Border Fellows program depends in large part on our vast network of supporters — people like you. Here’s what you can do to help:
- Spread the word to relatives, friends, churches, colleges, and other groups so that young people are aware of the opportunity to serve as a border fellow.
- Pray for learning, expanded horizons, opportunities, and safety for current border fellows.
- If you are a parishioner from St. Clements, consider serving as a host family, vocational mentor, or committee member.
- If you are a local business or organization, consider hiring a young person to work for you for 10 months (16 hours per week in the mornings).
- Donate funds to help cover the costs of running the program that aren’t covered by the funds the border fellows raise themselves.