Neighbor Focus – United States


When Elvis Garcia Callejas was 15 years old, he fled violence in his home country of Honduras and journeyed alone to the United States. He spent one year in a detention center in El Paso, Texas. “I didn’t have family here, or anyone to receive me,” he recalls.

Eventually, he was adopted by the Tobins, a Catholic family from Chicago, and with their support he received an education. As an adult he wanted to help young people like himself who had immigrated. Remembering how playing soccer had helped him adjust to his new country, he founded a soccer team in New York for recently arrived immigrant and refugee youth.

“Many of these kids found themselves forced to leave their country or die,” he explains. “Soccer is something these kids understand, in a country where nothing else looks familiar. On the field they can forget about the problems they’re going through. They can be themselves without being judged.”

Adapted from A Right to Dream in Maryknoll magazine

CLASS DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

Recall:

Why did Elvis leave his country? How old was he when he traveled to the United States? Who did he travel with?  What happened when he got to the US? Did anyone help him? How does he help other children today?

Comprehension:

Why do you think Elvis chooses to work with children who are immigrants? How does soccer help the young people that Elvis works with? What problems do you think soccer helps these young people forget about? How do you think these young people might feel “judged” as immigrants to the United States?

EXTENSION INSTRUCTIONS:

Place students in groups of 3.

Assign two of the students in each group one of the five characters from the story:

  1. Edenilson Membreño
  2. Grandmother of Edenilson
  3. Ariel Mejía
  4. Elvis Garcia Callejas
  5. Pope Francis

Designate the third student in the group as the interviewer.

Student instructions:

  1. Read A Right to Dream
    • As a group, select one of the below questions to ask each of your group’s characters (each character should get a different question)
    • As a group, write the response that you imagine the characters would give based on what you know about them
    • Be prepared to perform your interviews in front of the class (Optional)
  2. Discuss as whole class what they learned from the role play about welcoming.
  3. Add the ideas to the poster from Step 2 of the Educator Guide. 

Interview Questions:

  1. How has reaching out to others made a difference in your life?
  2. What role has faith played in your life?
  3. What is your dream for the future?
  4. How has family been important to your life?
  5. What gives you hope?
  6. What does it mean to make people feel welcome?
  7. Why is it important to encourage and support one another?