Providing Insight into Immigration to Today’s Youth

ProBAR staff give presentation to high school student group.

The American Bar Association’s South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (ProBAR) plays many roles when it comes to supporting clients. Much of our work is centered around serving individuals in immigration detention or navigating legal proceedings. Because of this, it may come as a surprise to learn that the ProBAR team also provides the general Rio Grande Valley community with educational sessions on the immigration field, as well as career pathways supporting the organization’s mission.  One ProBAR department often takes the lead in organizing and ultimately providing these presentations to local schools and organizations. Our Outreach Department is comprised of one Director and a small team of Outreach Associates who educate, engage, and develop initiatives that amplify the impact of ProBAR’s work to empower immigrants. 

In May 2023, ProBAR’s Outreach Department was invited to the IDEA Public School’s Frontier campus in Brownsville, TX, to provide high school seniors with an insight into ProBAR’s work, services, and career paths within the organization. IDEA staff reached out to ProBAR expressing how important it felt for their seniors to learn about these topics. Outreach Associate Cynthia Gomez presented on the requested topics at IDEA along with Supervising Attorney Emily Neubig, Senior Staff Attorney Gretchka Curbelo-Del Valle, Social Worker Johanna Martinez, and Social Worker Karla Pantoja. More specifically, topics discussed and presented included careers at ProBAR, our work and mission, types of legal immigration relief, why people immigrate, challenges, the importance of legal services, coping with stressors, and more. Prior to presenting, our staff was sure to set ground rules for the students, such as respecting one another’s opinions, due to the delicacy of certain subjects that were going to be raised. 

The students were highly engaged and grasped many concepts from the presentation. At the conclusion of the session, Cynthia received great feedback from the teachers in attendance. One teacher shared, “the kids had such great conversations about immigration after you left. The part they spoke about most was knowing your immigrant rights.” A student shared with Social Worker Karla Pantoja that, after hearing about ProBAR’s work, her career goal is to join the social services field. This goes to show that presentations facilitated by ProBAR’s Outreach Department advance social justice advocacy and awareness, empower those in the immigrant community, and highlight different career pathways that contribute to the cause.   

The importance of providing these presentations to our youth can provide insight to those who may not know what is involved in the legal process of immigration. As Social Worker Johanna Martinez stated, “It is important for youth to know of the resources available in the community when it comes to immigration. Many are scared to ask due to the stigma associated with immigration and the fear of rejection/discrimination. It is also important to discuss immigration with students, so that they can empathize and be kind to one another. ProBAR not only presents students with useful information for people they may know, but also possible career options in the future.” Outreach Associate Cynthia stated that she often shares with students that there are many ways a person can help immigrants. They do not necessarily need to be an attorney to make an impact. ProBAR has many departments that collaborate and help advocate for immigrants, and there are a variety of careers that can give back to the immigrant community.  

Each ProBAR team member that assisted Outreach in this presentation enjoyed the opportunity to speak with the students. Senior Staff Attorney Gretchka Curbelo-Del Valle said, “It was a great experience to be able to have direct contact with high school students. I’m looking forward to having other opportunities to talk to similar groups to create awareness.”   

Echoing the team’s sentiments, Cynthia notes, “Providing educational information sessions on immigration and the work we do helps prompt our team to be well-versed in the legal process of immigration and our work. It prepares us for larger audiences and communicating with different stakeholders.” Together, Outreach navigates the constant shifts in immigration where laws and legal processes are relentlessly ever-changing. There is always an update on the topic for our team to learn, adapt to, and present on to raise public awareness.  

The Outreach Department welcomes individuals, organizations, schools, and other audiences interested in learning about our work, the landscape of immigration in our border region, and/or career opportunities with our team to reach out to request an info session. If interested, you can email the team at with such requests. 

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