On Wednesday afternoon, Butterfield-Odin welcomed in Lisa Kremer and Jessica Ventura of Familias Juntas (Families Together), an organization aimed at keeping and bringing families in danger of being separated due to immigration out of Worthington.
Kremer has worked 17 years with the organization, while Ventura was in the program as a youth. Ventura is now a freshman at Minnesota West-Worthington.
In 2013, Familias Juntas brought 14 children to Guatemala to meet family members who still live in their home country for the first time. Their experiences back home were documented in a film called "Abrazos" ("Embraces"). The film has been shown in the United States and other countries around the world. Ventura was one of the students featured in the film.
Ventura and other students were able to visit Guatemala for a week before returning to the states.
"Coming home was hard because I had to say good-bye to my grandparents," said Ventura.
Most of the Guatemalan families that Kremer works with are from San Marcos, a rural region, with small communities in high-poverty areas. The area borders Mexico, and most residents speak the native languages of Mam and K'iche.
"I feel very blessed to work with the Guatemalan community," said Kremer, who has visited Guatemala 11 times. "I've come to love the culture very much. Our families are faith-filled families. They're the ones that are in church and that are involved."
Some of the Butterfield-Odin staff and a handful St. James community members were in attendance. Ventura praised teachers for the hard work they do.
"Immigrants like me look up to teachers a lot," said Ventura. "Our parents aren't really educated and our teachers motivate us."
Ventura and Kremer answered questions on their experiences and involvement with Familias Juntas. Butterfield-Odin teachers and staff were able to ask Ventura on how to better help immigrant students in their classroom. Ventura was an ESL student from 2nd-9th grade, and now has aspirations to become an ESL teacher herself.
Uniting Cultures set up the meeting with Ventura and Kremer. Juntas Familias also holds a summer youth leadership program called "Dream Catchers," which encourages "the leadership potential of the children of immigrant families, ages 9-15, by learning skills that are important to servant-leadership."