Eric Yu ’18 first heard the words “social justice” in his religion class. At that time, he didn’t think much about what they really meant – he simply memorized the definition for an upcoming test.
Later, while participating in a St. Anthony Justice Education Day, where Eric helped pass out free lunches to homeless people in San Francisco, he began to truly understand that social justice ensures equality for all.
“I am now part of our school’s social justice club (Solidarity in Action) leadership team, and work with other club leaders to help raise social justice awareness in our school community,” Eric said.
Eric and classmate Devon Meyer thanked supporters of Bishop O’Dowd High School, who were gathered for a reception held at the Center for Environmental Studies (CES) on September 14, for helping provide transformative learning experiences for O’Dowd students.
More than $3 million was raised during the 2016-17 school year, with alumni, current and past parents, faculty and staff, grandparents, organizations, and friends of the school contributing. These funds allow O’Dowd to create and enhance programs that foster student growth and leadership.
Director of Service Learning Beth Mueller provided an overview of the service learning program, detailing how each program is integrated with a Religious Studies course and talked about desired outcomes for students.
On average, each graduating class contributes close to 40,000 hours of service to our community. While the individual student requirement for service is 100 hours over the course of four years, many students spend extra time in their program placement sites or seek new service opportunities in the local or global communities. For example, Eric sought out an opportunity in Detroit, Michigan, where he participated in a community rebuilding project during the summer between his sophomore and junior years.
But the numbers only tell part of the story. “We want the kids to have a heart-centered, relational experience,” Mueller said. “The whole service learning program is designed to help students learn how to deepen relationships with the people they serve because that is how they will learn the most.”
Volunteering at a camp for foster children, Devon was struck by the fact that the children had never had a camp experience – an opportunity she took for granted as a youngster. “Although I am now done with my service hours for school, I want to continue to volunteer for various organizations, especially ones serving kids,” she said.
Devon is now inspired to major in sociology in college and hopes to pursue a career that focuses on advocating for human rights and dignity.