What the Wall Cannot Stop

By T. Rebecca Hansen
SANTA ROSA, Calif. –

When was the last time you hugged your grandma, or shot baskets with your brother?

If you are privileged you probably see your family several times a year. For many Santa Rosa Junior College students, however, overwhelming barriers exist between them and a visit home.

Andreina Negrete seems shy, but she is more than happy to talk about her paternal grandparents, who live in Mexico.

“[Last time I saw them] was last year, in the summer. They came [up to visit us],” says Negrete.

Not everyone is so fortunate.

Finances can be a problem when a student’s income must cover tuition and books; most part-time jobs available to students pay low hourly wages, according to Georgetown University Center on the Education and the Workforce director Anthony P. Carnevale. Full schedules at school and work make trips hard to plan.

What’s more, families separated by geological and political barriers may not see each other for years.

Jocelyn Santiago’s family lives in the Philippines. All her grandparents have died, but she has siblings she hasn’t seen in nearly a decade.

“Economically, when you go home, you need to save enough money to pay for your expenses, and all the bills [back here]. And with my case, a single mom, and payments for mortgage…going home is going to be harder.”

Santiago supports herself and her young daughter while also participating in SRJC’s nursing program. She is no stranger to hard work, but these are obstacles she hasn’t overcome.

And yet family always finds a way. Santiago talks warmly about her close relationships with her relatives in the Philippines, and how they are always there for her. Negrete likewise sees her grandparents as a constant, supportive presence in her life.

How are these long-distance relationships maintained? There is a means which cuts through border walls, slices past schedules and can be accessed for a small fraction of the cost of a travel ticket.

“My mom just learned how to do Facebooking and every morning she shoots me emojis – I don’t understand sometimes – but it is very helpful [to hear from her],” says Santiago.

Walls can be built to divide us, but the Internet doesn’t stop at mere bricks and barbed wires.

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