A dozen O’Dowd students, accompanied by Director of Service Learning Beth Mueller and Religious Studies teacher Doug Vierra, recently traveled to Washington, DC, to participate in the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice 2017.
The Teach-In for Justice is an annual gathering for members of the Ignatian family to gather in the context of social justice and solidarity to learn, reflect, pray, network and advocate together.
Students heard from keynote speakers including Sr. Patricia Chappell, SNDdeN, Executive Director of Pax Christi USA, Rev. Bryan Massingale, a racial justice scholar, and Maria Stephan, a Senior Policy Advisory for the US Institute of Peace.
They also participated in breakout sessions that allowed them to take a deeper dive into social justice issues that resonate most with them, and joined in an Advocacy Day in which they headed to Capitol Hill to share stories, facts and discuss the need for more just policies with their elected officials. This year’s advocacy priorities were immigration reform and racism and mass incarceration.
“IFTJ inspired me to become more active in social justice within my community, specifically with O’Dowd. The first speech that really caught my attention was Father Bryan Massingale’s. He spoke to us about pervasive racism and how central it is to all the issues that plague society today. He also reminded us that we, too, are part of the problem; before we can turn to helping others we must recreate ourselves. I was also really inspired by the breakout session where we listened to ex-convicts with Homeboy Industries. We heard their firsthand experiences about how they got in prison and their struggles in getting out of the vicious cycle of mass incarceration,” Sophia Odeste ’19 said.
Jenay Hatchell ’18 said it was energizing to be around such hopeful and passionate students that want to change the country for the better. She was also inspired by her lobbying experience.
“I was able give my voice first-hand about the issue that I am most passionate about – criminal justice reform. It was empowering to know that someone is hearing my voice and that I truly have the ability to make change,” she said. “Being able to lobby and speak with these representatives got me excited about my future in politics. I am very passionate about getting people, especially youth, to realize the power their voices hold when it comes to our government.”
For Emmanuel Abeye ’18, learning about what other students his age are doing in their communities and high schools was inspiring and humbling. “We need to educate our student body to be active members in their communities and become catalysts for change,” he said.
Mueller has been an IFJT attendee for eight years, both as a student and chaperone.
“I remember being a student myself, full of hope for my own future and for the future of our country. Facilitating this experience for our O’Dowd students for the 3rd year brings me immense joy and a fulfillment that only God can provide,” she said. “As I watched Jenay speak to Feinstein’s staffer with poise and confidence, I knew that we had done well as a delegation. I am grateful for another successful IFTJ.”