LOUISVILLE, Ky. (CNS) — When President Donald Trump delivered his first address before a joint session of Congress Feb. 28, Emma Nunn, a senior at Assumption High School in Louisville, was in the audience.
Nunn, who says she’s “passionate” about the immigration issue, was invited to hear the president speak by Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth, who represents Kentucky’s 3rd District.
Nunn, 18, said she received a call from Assumption teacher Lisa Wieland Feb. 23 asking if she’d like to be Yarmuth’s guest for the president’s address.
“I started crying,” Nunn said during a Feb. 25 phone interview with The Record, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Louisville. “I never thought I’d get such an opportunity, but it couldn’t have come at a better time.”
Nunn was already set to be one of a dozen Assumption juniors and seniors taking part in a mission trip to Washington. The group visited the Sisters of Mercy, who founded Assumption High School, to learn about social advocacy and the sisters’ core values.
Yarmuth said during a phone interview Feb. 27 that members of the Democratic Caucus wanted to invite someone like Nunn, who has an interest in immigration, to be their guest during Trump’s address.
“Over the last couple of decades, there’s been a developing sense that government isn’t important, doesn’t work well or doesn’t affect people’s lives directly,” the congressman said.
It’s important to get young people like Nunn to take an interest in government to change that outlook, he noted. “I’m on a continuing mission to talk to young people about how government affects their lives and to take an interest in government.”
With Nunn, he said, he’s probably “preaching to the choir.”
“She’s already so engaged and has a commitment to public service and helping people.”
He hoped the experience will serve to “reinforce the importance” of the work she’s already doing.
Nunn said her interest in immigration grew out of her other passion, human trafficking. She realized, she noted, that immigration and human trafficking are “closely connected.”
“When people can’t emigrate legally, they try to emigrate illegally, which has a negative impact on their lives. If immigration was legal, this wouldn’t happen and human rights could be protected,” she said. “I’m all about people being able to move to new places and seize opportunities that are available.”
Nunn said she wants Trump to know that immigrants “are people, too, and are just trying to make the best of the life they have. If they think the United States is the place to do it, then why not?”
“There are plenty of job opportunities that are not being taken by people who are citizens,” she said. “They should be open to people who are willing to do them whether they are from another country or not.”
Reached a couple of days after Trump’s address, Nunn told The Record that she was disappointed to hear him talk about moving forward with plans to build the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and to hire more Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
“The president did talk about moving toward comprehensive immigration reform, and I’m hopeful both sides will come together on that,” she said during a phone interview from Washington March 2.
Yarmuth said that Nunn and other young people will be the ones to “assume important roles and change national policy” in the near future.
“Young people Emma’s age are seeing the world change and are comfortable with change,” he said. “We need their perspective in making policies in a world that is rapidly changing.”
“Young people are much more comfortable with diversity,” he said. “It makes them the best people to advocate for the immigration policy the country ought to have.”
Nunn isn’t the only young woman at Assumption taking action and seeking change.
Sara Bruner, Yufei Wang and Maggie Jordan are leaders of Assumption’s Global Outreach Club.
In December, the club led an effort to raise more than $5,000 for a school in southwestern Cambodia. The funds paid for two computers, textbooks, an internet connection and a salary for an English and computer teacher.
The school has a special connection with Assumption. In 2007, 10 Assumption students had an idea to build a middle school in Kampong Cham in Cambodia after learning about the plight of young girls who were forced into the sex trade because they lacked other opportunities.
The Assumption students believed that empowering Cambodian girls through education was the answer. They spent the next three years raising $19,000. The school, called “Change: Hope Through Education,” opened in 2010.
Now members of the Global Outreach Club are working to keep the school going.
The club also aims to raise awareness about the plight of immigrants and refugees in Louisville. The club started in 2014 but hadn’t been very active recently. Bruner, Wang and Jordan said they felt the time was right to reanimate the club. Bruner, who was a member of the club her sophomore year, said it helped her to develop a passion for global issues.
“With political discourse at the forefront, I thought it was a good time to get people educated and passionate about global affairs,” said Bruner.
Nunn said she hoped to learn during her Washington trip the different ways young women her age can become advocates for immigrants.