‘Opportunity for a better life:’ UCF students share emotional trip to US-Mexico Border

Stories students helped gather will be used in multi-part documentary

Instead of vacationing or partying, a group of students from the University of Central Florida set out for the U.S.-Mexico border this summer.

They wanted to learn more about the people working to call America home and bring those stories back to students at UCF.

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Amy Diaz and Ian Rodriguez both said they brought a unique perspective to the trip.

“Even though we are in Florida and we are far away from the border we have family that crossed, or we have family that has come here from Central America, or from other countries,” Rodriguez said.

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They both also speak Spanish, so it made it easier to learn the stories of those working to gain citizenship in the United States.

Rodriguez said some of the conversations he had were “hard to think about.”

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That includes one he had with two fathers at a shelter in El Paso, Texas.

“They told me they started in Venezuela and walked up into Mexico and it’s just with kids, with a family, walking up there. It’s hard to even imagine that happening,” he said.

Diaz said experiencing the process from their point of view was gripping.

She said when the group of students and professors went into a stock room where clothes, baby shoes and toiletries are kept everyone got quiet.

“It just put it into perspective that thousands of kids and parents are going through these, just as a stop in their journey, but this is making such an impact on them,” Diaz said.

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Rodriguez said he has never experienced anything like standing at the border wall.

“You are just separated by this man-made marker, but it’s just like lack of opportunity on the other side, but you know being in university and having the privilege to be able to get a college education that many people literally a stone’s throw away from you don’t have, it’s interesting,” he said.

He said being able to “touch the fence” and to learn the stories of the people trying to cross it has made him feel more connected to his father’s journey to America and appreciative of his own American experience.

Now, the stories he and Diaz helped gather will be turned into a multi-phase documentary called “A Break for Impact.

“In addition to that it’s going to be used in several classes for Criminal Justice, for Human Trafficking, for Immigration law and for Journalism, and it’s going to be used to teach students in a more immersive way what it’s like out there,” Diaz said.

To hear more about their journey to the U.S.-Mexico border, what they learned and how it will be used to teach others check out Florida’s Fourth Estate.

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About the Authors:

Tiffany produces the News 6+ Takeover at 5:30 p.m., Florida's Fourth Estate and Talk to Tom.

Ginger Gadsden joined the News 6 team in June 2014 as an anchor/reporter. She currently co-anchors the 4 p.m. 5:30 p.m. and the 7 p.m. newscasts.