November 09, 2016
Kaitlin Porter ’10 came to Ursinus in the fall of 2006 unsure of what the future would hold, but knowing that she wanted to work to address global issues. Ursinus was the perfect place to make that happen. Due to the many opportunities the school gives students to personalize their college experience, Kaitlin graduated with a double major in International Relations and Spanish, as well as a minor in Latin American Studies. In addition to her coursework, Kaitlin studied abroad for a semester in Madrid, Spain, was a member of Model U.N., and travelled to Mexico, Ecuador and Japan. After graduation, she worked with a rural development organization in Honduras, provided crisis counseling for a domestic violence agency in Maryland, served displaced persons in Colombia, and assisted the homeless as an AmeriCorps volunteer in Alamosa, Colorado.
When it came time to pursue a graduate degree, Kaitlin realized that her ability to connect with people on an individual and community level would make her well suited to become a social worker. She then went on to obtain a Master of Social Work from Boston College, with a concentration in Global Practice. As a graduate student, she had the opportunity to have a field placement abroad working with resettled refugees in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she provided clinical and case management training to local staff.
Currently, Kaitlin lives in Phoenix, Arizona and works with detained immigrants along the Arizona/Mexico border as the Social Services Coordinator for Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, a free legal and social service provider for detained adults and unaccompanied minors. While immigration is one of the most talked about political issues of this election season, Kaitlin is there on the front lines, working extremely hard to help one of the most vulnerable populations in our society.
An average day is, according to Kaitlin, essentially an oxymoron: every day brings new challenges. She spends her days collaborating with attorneys and visiting with clients in the one of the detention centers. The “majority of [her] clients are individuals with serious mental health issues, but others have medical issues, are at-risk of losing custody of children, or are victims of domestic violence, trauma or torture.” She states, “I am usually working on different release plans for my clients to make sure their basic needs are met or identifying supportive services they can access…. This is one of the only social services programs working with detained immigrants.” Kaitlin adds that despite the challenges, the most memorable part of her job is when she has the opportunity to see detained immigrants reunited with family. She is constantly inspired by how resilient and strong her clients are after all they have been through.
Kaitlin credits much of her success to the Ursinus professors who inspired her and helped shape her path; the late Ambassador Joseph Melrose Jr. ’66 was a particularly invaluable mentor. Ultimately, Kaitlin’s post-Ursinus experiences have allowed her to come full circle. The values of a liberal arts education, especially the core themes of CIE, are reflected on a daily basis in her work: the benefits of an interdisciplinary approach, the importance of critical thinking for creative solutions and the need to recognize that, despite our differences, it is what we share that makes us human.
- Cara Saraco ’10