Rebuilding the Immersion Program

An overview of what’s in store for the Mitty Immersion Program this year

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Students hard at work fighting homelessness through building new homes at the 2019 Habitat for Humanity Immersion trip which will be reinstated this year. (Photo Courtesy of Ms. Jamie Visser)

As the rest of the Mitty community recovered from an age of at-home learning in early 2022, the Campus Ministry staff found out that COVID restrictions would hinder their immersion plans for yet another year. Now this year at last, they are returning to the much-missed pre-pandemic culture of Mitty’s immersion trips. The program has undergone a few changes, including the return of their partnership with Habitat for Humanity and the retirement of the ECJ Appalachia and Urban Plunge trips.

ECJ Appalachia was one of the best things to happen to me. I got to meet so many new friends, experience the beauty of West Virginia, and most importantly, I learned to be grateful for the things in my life.”

— Sean Lee, Class of 2023

Before the pandemic, Mitty offered a co-curricular volunteering experience through Habitat for Humanity, an organization dedicated to fighting homelessness. In Medford, Oregon, just short of 400 miles from Mitty, students built, demolished, and repaired housing. While Habitat for Humanity could not offer this opportunity under COVID restrictions, they are ready to bring it back. Unlike other providers, Habitat for Humanity requires participants of at least sixteen years of age to carry out demanding physical labor at their construction sites. “It’s very much the most active immersion we have,” comments Mitty’s director of Campus Ministry, Ms. Jamie Visser. Students’ efforts are worthwhile; the fruit of their labor culminates in affordable housing options for those in need.

With one opening, however, come two closures. The five-day Urban Plunge replaced the Habitat for Humanity immersion as a more COVID-friendly choice. With a convenient location in downtown San Jose, it allowed students to experience and improve the lives of the homeless in the Bay Area. In addition, ECJ Appalachia has ended its run. Mitty’s Ethics, Culture and Justice trips are initiated by teachers with a passionate interest in conducting service at a particular destination. Besides heading the trip, they conduct a year-long course on the location’s history and values. Campus Ministry is grateful to Mrs. Lauren Matusich for her many years of service to ECJ Appalachia. It will be missed, as senior Sean Lee recalls, “ECJ Appalachia was one of the best things to happen to me. I got to meet so many new friends, experience the beauty of West Virginia, and most importantly, I learned to be grateful for the things in my life.” Looking ahead, Campus Ministry and Religious Studies are open to exploring ECJ classes with new leadership in the future.

Perhaps the most notable change for immersion trips is the possibility of returning to full international travel next summer, while keeping COVID restrictions in mind. Campus Ministry hopes Mitty can restore the program’s unique culture, which unites students from distinct backgrounds and kindles positive change in global and local communities alike.