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Jesuit students tackle social justice issues in Washington, D.C.

School sending 43 students to annual teach-in event


Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Jesuit High School seniors Claire Lucas, from left, Brigid Kelley and Jana Anparo will join 43 fellow students at the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice this weekend in Washington, D.C.The U.S. Congress of recent years may be known for its state of perpetual gridlock, but a large group of Jesuit High School students finds a passion for social justice-related topics is capable of cutting through the dysfunctional fog.

“They want to hear young voices,” says Claire Lucas, a Jesuit senior of the political dignitaries and staffers she and fellow students plan to interact with this weekend in Washington, D.C. “They want to hear that we’re engaged, that we’re involved and hear that we care.”

Forty-three students and faculty from the private school in Beaverton will join more than 1,300 social justice advocates affiliated with Jesuit-based schools, parishes and the larger Catholic Church at the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice, held Nov. 15-17 in the nation’s capital city.

Sponsored by the Ignatian Solidarity Network, a national faith-based, social justice organization, the 17th annual teach-in is a conference designed to effect positive social change on global issues the organization deems critical, among them immigration, discrimination, climate change and institutionalized poverty.

Participants represent more than 80 Catholic institutions in 25 states as well as Canada and Mexico.

During the three-day event, participants will engage in workshops and policy discussions and listen to keynote addresses, culminating with a rally on Capitol Hill and meeting with more than 125 Congressional members and/or their staffs. Students plan to discuss issues such as humane comprehensive immigration reform, supporting human rights policies in Central America, climate change and effects marginalizing the economically poor.

Lucas, who spent time on the U.S.-Mexico border hearing the stories of fledgling immigrants, is hopeful she can share what she’s learned with those in policy-making positions.

“I have been to the border and seen injustices happen and asked, ‘Why is this happening,” she said. “They know the (immigration) bills. They want to hear the personal stories, which get them interested and engaged.”

Scott Powers, director of Christian Services at Jesuit High School at 9000 S.W. Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway, is coordinating the students’ trip, which will include some time to explore Washington’s monuments, museums and historical landmarks. He sees the teach-in as a way to marry classroom concepts with the realities of policy- and lawmaking.

“It’s a great opportunity,” he said, “a real hands-on way for kids to take what they’re doing in the classroom and put it into action. What we talk about (at school) is really important. The next step calls us to advocacy and action, to work for justice and meet (powerful) people where they’re at.”

“Students have an opportunity,” he added, “to see what they learn in government and peace and justice classes, and see it in action in real time.”

This year’s event coincides with the 25th anniversary of the murders of six Jesuit priests and two laywomen who were killed by the Salvadoran military in El Salvador on Nov. 16, 1989, for the Jesuits’ outspoken support for poor Salvadoran people. The anniversary prompted Powers and Jesuit leaders to send the largest group of students the school’s ever delivered to the event.

“We’re taking such a big group,” said Jesuit senior Brigid Kelley, a Lake Oswego resident. “For the 25th anniversary, almost 50 students taking part. (The event) had a pretty big impact on the Jesuit community, so everybody knows what’s going on.”

All participants will gather for the larger keynote addresses, but can choose among many smaller seminars on topics that spark their interest.

“I’m looking forward to listening to the breakout sessions,” said senior Jana Amparo, who along with Lucas and Kelley attended last year’s teach-in. “You can choose (from) different issues. It can be LGBT, sex trafficking or social injustice issues.”

Amparo and her fellow students make a point to channel the knowledge, insights and inspiration they pick up from their time on the National Mall in Washington.

“We hope to come back with an awareness of the social justice issues and help at home, here in Portland and the Northwest,” she said. “We look for what we can do to help out a little.”

Kelley agreed that the conference provides a renewed commitment to keep the social justice dialogue dynamic and action driven here in Oregon.

“The conference doesn’t end on Monday,” she said. “We’re not going to stop talking about these issues. They’re not going away anytime soon.”

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