Walla Walla, Washington has a farm labor camp that is primarily populated by families who work harvest. The majority of these families are Hispanic. The parents tend to speak limited English while the children are bi-lingual, speaking both Spanish and English. Several years ago, a Whitman student names Griselda Enriquez, began going to the camp frequently to interact with the children. She was not a part of an organized program; she often went alone. He purpose in visiting was to let the children know that they had options. She told them they could do well in school, go to college and become what they chose to be.
When she graduated from Whitman College in May of 2000, another student approached the Center for Community Service Office and suggested that the office continue the link that Griselda had forged by creating a formal program that brought Whitman College students together with the children from the farm labor camps.
At that point, the Cross Cultural Outreach Program was created. It consists of several student coordinators who are responsible for the vision and planning of the weekly activities. They then recruit other Whitman students to attend with them on Saturday mornings and be involved with the children. Students and student groups are encouraged to share with the children their passions and to actively engage them in activities. Events that are sponsored are intended to be much more than just a weekly activity program to give the children something to do on Saturday mornings. The focus of the program is to broaden the children’s experiences and let them know that the world is filled with opportunities for them by actively involving them in the weekly theme.
The Cross Cultural Outreach Program also includes field trips. The student coordinators felt that it was important for the children in the farm labor camp to be more involved in the local Walla Walla community and to explore some of the resources available to them. One such trip will have the children traveling to a local ice chalet to play broomball with the Whitman students. This is a favorite event for the college students, and they wanted to share the experience with the children. In addition to playing and interaction with older college students, this exposes the children to the entire college campus and atmosphere.
The Cross Cultural Outreach Program is a success. It is a model that shows motivated young adults making a positive difference in the lives of children. It also shows young adults living in a community and taking responsibility for making that community a better place while they are there as opposed to being disconnected from what is around them. The students, the community and the children are enriched by the experiences of this program.