Building Safe Schools for the Children of Asylum-Seekers

The Canyon Nest, a school 30 minutes from the U.S. / Mexico border, will soon provide education for children of families waiting in Tijuana while seeking refuge in the United States.

Founded by the Pedagogical Institute of Los Angeles (PILA), the Nest needs teachers, volunteers and renovations to make the building fit for 50 kids to learn, play, and grow in a safe, stable environment.

There are three ways supporters can help. They can make a monetary donation, or they can donate supplies for the children and teachers to use during the school day—from books and chairs to microscopes and stilts. They can also sign up to be volunteers, staffing the center for at least five days at a time in order to provide consistency for the students there.

The Canyon Nest is the second to come to Tijuana. Alise Shafer Ivey, an early childhood specialist and educator, and Lindsay Feldman Weissert, a journalist and activist, have built these Nests with PILA’s help. In September 2019, the Border Nest opened its doors to provide space for students and their parents to get away from their cramped living conditions and to support the children in their formative years.

“I was so concerned for them, because I know that they can’t go back to the countries they’re leaving,” Weissert said in an exclusive interview with Ms. that appears in the Winter 2020 issue. “They’d be killed.”

A mother herself, Weissert worried about the amount of trauma the children of asylum-seekers were likely enduring in their journeys to the U.S. Fear could stem from the conditions from which they immigrated, the loss of their home and the experiences at their destinations—including the overcrowded shelters they occupy in Tijuana.

Weissert also recognized that schools are about more than learning languages and math. That notion is at the heart of The Nest, which also teaches the children about decision-making, socializing, working together and other skills that will help once their asylum is granted. 

Both the Canyon and Border Nests will continue to provide for immigrant families, especially while President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric rules the Oval Office. 

“I don’t want to think of those children spending one hour in a shelter when they could be having this experience,” Weissert explained to Ms., “especially in light of what they’ve already been through.”

Become a member of Ms. to read more about The Border Nest, the organization’s history and the families who attend the school.


Fiona is a journalism student at the University of Southern California. When not in the office nor in class, she is often found photographing her friends, attending local concerts and eating sourdough toast.