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Virtual Social Justice Experiences Replace Summer Service Trips for Rising Seniors

Since our summer service trips were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our Office of Ignatian Service decided to create weekly virtual experiences for our rising seniors that focus on relevant social justice topics based on the Jesuits' updated Universal Apostolic Preferences, which were introduced by the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Fr. Arturo Sosa, in 2019. 

"A few weeks ago when the summer service trips were canceled, I started talking to some adult leaders and asked if they would consider leading a virtual service experience," said Beth Ann Szczepaniak, Loyola Blakefield Director of Ignatian Service. "The response was very positive, and we started the process of planning some virtual social justice weeks. After a couple brainstorming sessions, we decided to create programs based on the Universal Apostolic Preferences: Showing the Way to God, Walking with the Excluded, Journeying with the Youth, and Caring for Our Common Home. Before the end of the school year, I asked the rising seniors to sign up if they were interested in an alternative experience, and we had an amazing response with 115 students signed up for ten sessions."

Our first virtual social justice experience took place June 15–19, and the theme was Showing the Way to God: Racial Reconciliation. Students and faculty leaders read the book, Not in My Neighborhood,  and discussed the effects of residential segregation in Baltimore. While reading the book, students met with the author, Mr. Antero Pietila, to discuss the present day relevance of redlining and discrimination. The group also met with Baltimore City Council member Mr. Bill Henry '86 to talk about his personal experiences at Loyola Blakefield, as well as his career in public service in Baltimore. 

Here are some quotes from our Dons describing the week:

"As a group, we overcame our unknown ignorance to a prejudiced past in Baltimore and throughout the nation, causing us to gain empathy and knowledge to pass onto others." – Chris Ritchie '21

"Finally getting an analytical reveal of systemic racism is quite the eye-opener. Seeing just how deeply rooted and widespread discrimination is just goes to show how much work needs to be done and how willing and compassionate people must be to resolve the problem." – Anton Hermoso '21

"I have experienced this service to be like a restart button for my view on social justice. Rather than developing on our current view, we are restarting and making a new one because the old way of looking at social justice may not have been your own." – Vincent Cerrato '21

"It was an amazing experience to be able to see the locality of so many things. If you take a second and stop and think, you still see where neighborhood segregation was and is. Going into the week, I was unsure on how this was going to go, but I am leaving with nothing but good things and an amazing experience." – Riley McWilliams '21

"I think it's amazing to see these different perspectives on the racism and inequality within our country and especially our city. Honestly, I don't think we could've picked a better time to gather together like this." – Anthony Alark '21

Here is the schedule for the remaining service trips this summer:

June 28 – July 3
Caring for Our Common Home: Protecting Our Chesapeake Bay
Journeying with the Youth: Education and Childhood Hunger

July 5–10
Journeying with the Youth: Education and Childhood Hunger

July 12–17
Caring for Our Common Home: Protecting Our Chesapeake Bay

July 19–24
Showing the Way to God: Reconciliation and Justice for Racial Discrimination
Walking with the Excluded: Migrants, Immigrants, Asylum Seekers, and Refugees

August 9–15
Walking with the Excluded: Migrants, Immigrants, Asylum Seekers, and Refugees
Showing the Way to God: Reconciliation and Justice for Racial Discrimination
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