My service-learning trip to the SSND Educational Center in Queens, NY is one of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve had.

I am grateful not only for having the School Sisters welcome us into their home but also for meeting the immigrant women at the center. The highlights of my week were spending time with the women, who either took ESL classes or were studying for their GED. I shared with them a lesson on mindfulness and taught a breathing technique for meditation.

It was challenging at first, but I learned how to overcome language barriers and genuinely connect with the women. I truly admire their motivation to learn and their drive for success. They are also the best students, and I loved engaging with them through laughing and sharing stories. Even though I was there to do some teaching, I learned so much about the women’s struggles in adjusting to life in the U.S. and about myself.

As a first-generation immigrant myself, this experience is personal to me and has widened my perspective about others’ sacrifices to get to where they are today. I am inspired by the women taking classes at the Educational Center, since they showed me that, no matter how difficult their journeys are, they still have so much kindness in their hearts. In the future, I hope to participate more in the SSND mission of both bringing justice to immigrants and educating women.

~Gerriza Balmes