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Jackson High students hope to bridge gaps and unite communities across borders

JACKSON, Wyoming (KIFI) - During the past 30 years, a large number of people from Tlaxcala, Mexico and other neighboring regions in Mexico have been moving to Jackson, Wyoming.

This created a large Latinx community in the city of Jackson nearing 30% of the whole community.

At Jackson High School, a self created divide is now in the works of being bridged. A senior at the school Lachlan Brown says unfortunately, "we self-segregate a lot, we do that. You can notice it at lunch tables and in classrooms."

But a recent trip to the Mexican state of Tlaxcala and city of the same name, along with other cities in the area have begun to help bridge the perceived gap with in the two communities.

"I think going back to, you know, the culture probably, I mean, sure, the community will understand a little bit the Latino community better and also, you know, help and to become more like engaged in community, like more united because what I see sometimes there's this gap like both communities they don't really get together, we're alone. So hopefully through these exchange program, we can help connect it and I think there's a lot of positive things, you know, that will help," Jackson High Spanish teacher Gabriel Lopez said.

Something Ary Jimenez, a junior and member of the Latinx community in Jackson, is seeing in real time and hopes to continue to see, saying the trip helped end some stereotypes that many of the non hispanic students who went on the trip left behind.

"Like seeing the non Hispanic students go there, I think that's a way to end the stereotypes, like Mr. Lopez said. Because they can see and tell for themselves, like, no, they're wonderful people. Like, everyone was so nice. No, I never was hungry. They were all just helping me. So I think that's just one way to end those stereotypes for the families here that are non Hispanic," Jimenez said.

Nicole Checker also added to Ary's comment that for members of the students on the trip and those they were visiting worked hard to include everyone.

"It was really beautiful and just amazing to see how inclusive they were. And I mean not there's not one single person that's not included in any of the activities or whoever felt left out. The connections that we also just made with the people in charge. We're not just talking about the students, but the people who are taking pictures of us and the people who are talking to us. We made really good friends with them, and it was just so beautiful to see the connections that everyone made," Checker said.

As time goes on, the students involved in the trip hope that these relationships will continue "ensuring that the next people within the Latinx community are heard and are still connected with their home. And for white students like myself to continue to learn about the background of this community in Jackson," says Sophie, a junior at the high school.

For all the students they say spending time in an area where many of their community's members are from provided them with a chance to make connections in a more human way despite language barriers.

"There is a lot of language barriers, but a lot of students who would resort to Google Translate or just like hand signs or whatever they could use to just communicate and create these connections. And even though I am Latina as well, I feel like I grew up being a lot of knowledge about just this whole cultural exchange because I grew up here, they grew up there, and our lives are just so different." Checker said.

She says it was amazing to watch everyone move past the language barrier and not only make those connections but find common ground.

Something Sophie is still experiencing since returning home.

"I'm still in contact with a lot of the students and kind of texting back and forth and it's interesting to kind of recognize that like I've been texting with the student who wants to study the same degree as me or like we're passionate about the same issues. And it's not just like bonding over TV shows or books or movies." She continues, "It's, it's bonding over like issues and social issues that we're passionate about. I think that's an interesting thing. That's about teens. It's like, you know, they're facing the same barriers and they're and they want to see the same changes in the world. And I think that's another thing is like they're not alienated from the rest of the world."

Brown says they not only presented the mayor of Tlaxcala with some art from the town of Jackson but are also hoping to continue the exchange of culture and ideas by bringing some of those students to Jackson.

Next year we're thinking or we're trying to get students down from La Scala students we were kind of partnered with down there to come up to Jackson and that's that's still in the works," Brown said.

Lopez says everyone in the Jackson and Tlaxcala communities will benefit from this continued sister city relationship especially many of the newer students who come to Jackson.

"I mean, they're kind of lost a little bit. And like, the school system is so different. And obviously they see outside as well. So we are separate enough and I think with this program, that will help tremendously, you know, going to come together."

The students said they hope that helping everyone involved understand and appreciate the different cultures is just the first step in bridging those gaps and uniting the community.

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Braydon Wilson

Braydon is a reporter for Local News 8 and Eyewitness News 3.

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