This program is organized by BorderLinks in collaboration with DukeEngage.

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Program Dates

May 21 - July 22

Service Focus

Addressing the root causes of migration from Central America and Mexico to the United States, students will partner with community service organizations focused on migration and border issues. 

Program Leaders

  • Cathie Pacheco, DukeEngage Site Coordinator, BorderLinks
  • Sabina Trejo, Community Outreach and Education Coordinator, BorderLinks
  • , Co-Director, BorderLinks

Program Overview

Students will explore the root causes of migration from Central America through their work with organizations in Tucson, Arizona and through home-stays with local families. Participants will learn about issues related to the U.S./Mexico borders, focusing on human rights, economic and racial justice, comprehensive immigration reform, indigenous land rights and environmental issues around border and immigration policies. Students will also have opportunities to connect their experiences in these border regions to realities of life in North Carolina.

Immigration is one of the largest domestic challenges facing both the United States and Mexico today: Families are being separated and people are dying nearly every day while attempting to cross the border. Under a faltering economy, hostilities against immigrants in the U.S. have been growing in every state across the nation, including, to a large extent, in North Carolina. In 2010, Arizona came under international scrutiny with the passage of one of the toughest immigration laws in U.S. history—SB1017. Local, state, and international relations are strained over this issue and individuals, families and communities are affected by the policies and practices of immigration enforcement.

Led by BorderLinks, an organization with more than 25 years of experience using experiential learning and popular education, DukeEngage in Tucson has worked with Duke’s Program in Latino/a Studies in the Global South, Center for Documentary Studies, and Student Action with Farmworkers to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of the border and immigration issues we face today. Other collaborations with Duke faculty, staff, and local Durham nonprofits is ongoing.

After arriving in Tucson, students will spend a few days learning about Southern Arizona and the borderlands and will participate in orientation activities to prepare them for working in the context of this community and the dynamics of group living.

Every student will work directly with a community organization. Students will spend roughly three weeks living with Spanish-speaking host families in Tucson, and the remaining time living in dormitories at the BorderLinks headquarters. Throughout the program, students will come together for dinners and reflections at the BorderLinks headquarters.

Several weekends will be spent on educational delegations throughout the border region of Southern Arizona, under the leadership of BorderLinks’ staff. Participants will meet with activists, policy makers, academics, and local residents, including recent migrants, to discuss the relevant issues. Some weekend time will be free and students will have the opportunity to participate in individual and/or group activities and trips to the surrounding areas.

Service Opportunities

Volunteer opportunities will range from working with migrants, day laborers, indigenous peoples, LGBTQ groups and people without homes, to organizing “know your rights” clinics, participating in research related to immigration or public health, assisting with community action/interaction, and publicity efforts. We plan to continue placing students with some of the organizations that students have enjoyed and contributed to in years past, including:

  • Casa Mariposa
  • Coalición de Derechos Humanos
  • Humane Borders
  • Iskashita
  • Mariposas Sin Fronteras
  • No More Deaths
  • Scholarships A-Z
  • Sierra Club Borderlands
  • Southside Worker Center
  • Southside Presbyterian Sanctuary Church
  • Protection Network Action Fund

Students will also get to know other organizations in the region through delegations and community enrichment activities.

Program Requirements & Logistics

Language/Other Prerequisites: Spanish language ability is strongly preferred in many of the internships but is not required. Student participants with no Spanish language ability have proven as successful and satisfied with the program as those who are fluent in the language.

Opportunities will be provided for each student to improve their Spanish-speaking ability.

Course Requirements: No specific courses are required for participation in this program. Students are strongly encouraged to enroll in courses related to the program themes prior to and/or after the summer program. We have found that the classroom connection and knowledge gained enhances the summer experience dramatically. Suggestions include Latino/a Studies courses, Documentary Studies courses, courses that examine globalization and/or global politics, public policy, economy, environmental issues, and Spanish Service Learning courses (see “Resources” section).

Other Requirements:

  • Empathy and cultural sensitivity – effectively and respectfully communicates and interacts with people of different ages, races, religions, genders, sexual orientations and cultures; demonstrates curiosity about the lives of others without judgment; demonstrates an awareness of how others may view them in a variety of cultural settings.
  • Flexibility, patience, and motivation – willingness to listen and learn from others; ability to work on teams and on individual projects; willingness to ask questions, express needs, and seek help or guidance when needed; balanced view of the student’s role within a larger community context.

DukeEngage will facilitate visas for participants. International students should contact DukeEngage about requirements.

Reflection Sessions: All students will be expected to actively participate in weekly group reflection sessions, and they will have the opportunity to share in leading these reflection sessions. A variety of reflection formats may be used, including discussion based on readings and videos, artistic activities, and journaling.

In addition to regular reflection sessions, students will be expected to post on the program blog or participate in a final group project. In 2015, for example, students made an educational and reflective zine about their summer experience to share with community partners, their home communities and their peers at Duke University. Last year, students put together a blog: https://dukeengagetucson2016.wordpress.com. Other projects might include documentary, creative expression, or research projects that students will share through exhibits, forums, class presentations, independent studies and thesis projects.

Program Details

Neighborhood: In Tucson, the BorderLinks Headquarters (office and dormitory) is located downtown, and is within walking distance of the downtown area, public transportation, restaurants, coffee shops, a laundry mat, gym, grocery stores, the library and some of the placement sites. Most of the home-stay placements will be in the southern part of Tucson, in predominantly Latinx neighborhoods.

Throughout the duration of the program, students will be within close contact of the BorderLinks staff and students will be advised to always travel in pairs or groups, particularly after dark.

Housing and Accommodations: Students will reside at the BorderLinks dorm for a little more than three weeks, and with local Spanish- speaking host families for roughly three to five weeks 

The Borderlinks Headquarters includes both offices (daytime staff) and the dormitory/living area for groups. Students will share rooms (2-3 students per room) and will share a living space, bathrooms, and kitchen space with one another, and at times with other students and visitors to the site. The Headquarters has wireless internet access, with one computer available in the residential area, and phones for receiving calls and/or emergency use. Students may bring their own laptops and cell phones. The on-the-ground coordinator lives within a short drive of the BorderLinks headquarters, and BorderLinks staff are also on-site during the daytime in the offices.

Home-stay placements will be arranged based on a matching process before the group’s arrival in Tucson. Students are encouraged to participate in activities with their host families and to consider their home-stay a central part of the program. Tucson home-stay families have all received a thorough orientation about the DukeEngage program. The families have partnered with BorderLinks in the past, hosting students and groups in their homes, and are familiar with the organization’s educational mission. During the home-stay period, students will rely on the Tucson public bus system (Sun Tran) to reach their service placement sites and the BorderLinks headquarters. During the home-stays, the Headquarters will remain open to students for daytime and evening group meeting activities.

During travel delegations, students and staff will travel together as a group and may stay overnight in churches or community centers.

Meals:  While staying in the BorderLinks dormitory, some dinners will be prepared by the BorderLinks staff and members of Mariposas Sin Fronteras.  Meals prepared by BorderLinks staff will be vegetarian, with some produce coming from the on-site garden.  Students will prepare their own breakfasts and lunch, with food provided by BorderLinks.  Students will also be responsible for cooking a few dinners a week and are encouraged to bring their favorite recipes to share.

Students will take prepared lunches with them to their site placements. About once a week, the group will have an intentional dinner together for community-building and reflection. BorderLinks staff will educate students on issues of food security on both sides of the border, which is a key piece of understanding the border context and migration trends.

During home-stays, the family will provide daily breakfast and dinner meals. Students will prepare their own lunch at their home-stay, to take to work. Meals prepared by home-stay families will likely contain meat products, though vegetarians and vegans (and students with other dietary needs) will be accommodated at all times with advance notice.

During travel delegations, all meals will be provided by BorderLinks.

If you do not eat certain types of food for cultural, religious or personal reasons, please contact the DukeEngage office, , to discuss whether or not your dietary needs can be reasonably accommodated at this program site.

Communications: Students are encouraged to bring laptops, cell phones, and where appropriate, documentary equipment (cameras, video cameras, voice recorders, etc.). As stated above, the BorderLinks Headquarters has Internet access (including wireless).  A landline telephone is available for use at the Headquarters as well. When traveling, students will be encouraged to leave laptops behind; students may determine whether or not to carry cell phones during this time.  The on-the-ground coordinator will carry a functioning cell phone at all times.  The cell phone number will be shared with students to pass on to family members for their emergency use during the travel delegations. Except in emergency situations, students will not be permitted to use cell phones during group activities, meals, or while traveling in the vans.

Transportation: Daily transportation to work sites will be by public bus.  Students may also travel in BorderLinks’ vehicles.  For travel delegations, students will travel in a 15-passenger or minivan driven by BorderLinks staff.  BorderLinks staff follow safety and emergency protocol at all times.

Volunteer Placement Logistics: Students are encouraged to look at the websites of our community partners for more insight into each organization’s mission and programs. Students should also view our previous program websites created by Duke students, as these will provide information on what to expect from the volunteer placements and the program overall.  Students are encouraged to contact prior program participants at Duke for more information on the program and partner organizations. Students will learn more about placement opportunities during the Interview period for our program, and will be able to indicate their placement preferences to BorderLinks staff.  The on-the-ground coordinator will work with students and the community partners to place each student at an appropriate site. Community partners may interview students by phone and/or ask for additional information including resumes or brief essays from students in advance of placements.

If you have more questions about the program, feel free to email the BorderLinks program

Border Patrol Nation: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Homeland Security by Todd Miller

For more recommended readings, please email

Suggested Coursework and Curricular Connections

See the Course Requirements section above. Some suggested courses include:

LSGS 101S/LIT 373S/SPANISH 160S/AAAS 104S (formerly LSGS 100) – Intro to Latino/a Studies

Intro to the interdisciplinary field of Latino/a Studies, and how it reconfigures the study of the United States and the Americas. Course considers the literature, history, sociology, economics, politics, culture and language in examining terms such as: Latino, latinidad, Global South, transnational, globalization, and multiculturalism. Exploration of alignments and divergences of Latino/a Studies with African and African American Studies, Latin American and Caribbean Studies, and Critical US Studies. Classroom learning will connect with the community outside of Duke. Required intro course for students in the Latino/a Studies in the Global South certificate program.

LSGS 290S/EDUC 290S —Latino/a Students' Educational Experiences (Special Top)

This course critically examines the educational experiences of Latina/os in the U.S. Using Latino literature, academic research, and media and popular culture texts this course deconstructs the historical, cultural, and political issues impacting Latina/o communities. We will explore educational issues specific to Durham’s Latina/o communities; interrogate issues of identity and cultural homogenization among Latina/os; and examine historical movements advocating for Latina/o rights. You will examine the intersection of race/ethnicity, gender, and class among Latina/o groups. Course discussions explore the needs of Latina/o students with a specific focus on teacher education preparation, cultural responsive pedagogy, academic resources and programs.

LSGS 306/SPANISH 306 Health, Culture, Latino Community

Issues associated with access to the health care industry for growing Latino/a population in the US. Topics: cultural competency issues, medical practices, lexical knowledge related to the field. Develop research proposal informed by required 20 hours of service work with local community partners. Assessment on knowledge of content, oral and written Spanish, and participation in service. Recommended students take 300-level Spanish course prior to enrolling. Pre-requisite: Spanish 204 or equivalent

LSGS 307/SPANISH 307 Issues in Immigration and Education

This advanced Spanish language course provides community-based interaction with Durham Public Schools. In-class discussions will include topics of: Latino/a identity, access to education for immigrants, academic performance, assimilation, general pressures of family and peers, bilingualism, and configurations of ethno-racial consciousness. In addition to class sessions, students are required to spend 20 hours outside of class with assigned community partners. Students are assessed on knowledge of content, oral and written Spanish, and participation in service.  Recommended that students take a 100-level Spanish course prior to enrolling in this course.  Pre-requisite: Spanish 76 or equivalent. Service Learning. Note: this is previous semester’s description. 

HISTORY 465/ LSGS 465 – US/Mexico Border 18th – 20th Centuries – History Capstone Course

(Capstone seminar for History students; potentially open to all junior/senior LSGS students as non-capstone: contact Prof Deutsch for more info)

Explores the creation and perpetual remaking of the border between the U.S. and Mexico from the 1780s to the current day. Topics explored include nation formation, citizenship and migration, public policy, border incursions, and national identity. Students will examine works of history and autobiography as well as government hearings and other primary sources. Instructor: Deutsch. CZ, SS, CCI, R, W Note: this is previous semesters’ description.

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