One of the hallmarks of Jesuit secondary education is the focus on service. Students in Jesuit schools learn about the responsibilities that come with privilege and find ample opportunities to serve through school-sponsored programs and immersion trips. They know that one can serve by travelling to the other side of the world – or out the backdoor. Here’s a quick roundup of just some of the work Jesuit high school students did this past summer.
Colegio San Ignacio, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Fifty-one Colegio San Ignacio (CSI) students traveled to Arenoso, Dominican Republic with Fr. Alfredo Guzmán, SJ, who is known in Puerto Rico as “the mission priest.” His 20 years of experience leading these mission trips allow CSI students to participate in community service and witnessing the long-standing relationship that Fr. Guzmán has built over many years. CSI junior Joaquín López García reflected on the impact of this trip, writing, “The bonds I made with the locals in Arenoso will stay with me forever.”
Cristo Rey Jesuit College Preparatory School, Houston
This summer, one Cristo Rey Jesuit student helped sight-impaired students travel down the Colorado River, through DiscoverU, a nonprofit that enables disadvantaged students with Fantastic Learning Opportunities™ (FLO™). Jazmin’s FLO™ was a two-week boat trip on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. With the help of National Park and River guides, Jazmin assisted members of her team of 18 students and stepped out of her comfort zone to learn about leadership, teamwork and companionship.
De Smet Jesuit High School, St. Louis
De Smet Jesuit’s largest service trip actually happens during spring break. This year, nine seniors spent the week continuing one of De Smet Jesuit’s longest-running traditions — service learning in Belize. The students, accompanied by faculty members Kevin Berns ’87 and John Hawkey ’96, traveled to Punta Gorda to work with the teachers and students at St. Benedict School. They also helped repair the school’s roof.
Regis Jesuit High School, Aurora, Colo.
Regis Jesuit High School students undertook four different immersion trips. Students blogged about what they learned during each unique experience of encounter:
- Alaska – Co-Divisional: Eight girls, six boys and four Regis Jesuit teachers embarked on a journey to Alaska. Fish-frying at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, Bethel, and culling the river’s shore for trash, students learned and worked among the community, experienced the Prince William Sound in Chugach National Forest, and volunteered at Downtown Hope Center in Anchorage.
- Belize – Boys Division: Regis Jesuit boys spent 12 days in Belize at the beginning of July, accompanied by Fr. Eric Ramirez, SJ, whom the trip participants affectionally called “Padre” in their reflections. The boys spent time in Punta Gorda and Belize City, where they worked hard constructing houses, shared meals, and celebrated their efforts with snorkeling.
- Belize – Girls Division: Regis Jesuit girls headed to Belize in June, blogging their way through visits to St. Peter Claver School, learning about Creole culture and food in Punta Gorda. Each day was grace-filled with smiles and surprises through service to the community especially with the young children they encountered.
- Guatemala – Girls Division: Students and chaperones learned about companionship, fostering meaningful relationships and discomfort as an invitation to change during a five-day immersion in Guatemala. The girls met with local peers and leaders; they even bumped into Jesuit Dallas students on their first day in Guatemala City!
Rockhurst High School, Kansas City, Mo.
A total of 104 Rockhurst High School students participated in one of four Total Ignatian Experience (TIE) trips this summer – over ten percent of the student body!
- Appalachia-Tennessee Trip: A total of 46 students worked with Habitat for Humanity during two immersion trips to Appalachia, where they focused on completing a major phase of constructing a home. Habitat Appalachia is the second oldest Habitat site in the world.
- Tijuana: Thirty-seven incoming seniors participated in the TIE Tijuana, Mexico, immersion trip, volunteering with an organization named Esperanza. Each day students worked hard to dig foundations, construct concrete walls, pour ceilings and other work needed to construct housing with human dignity in mind.
- Kansas City: Twenty-one rising sophomores spent time this summer at Jerusalem Farm in Kansas City. Staying at Jerusalem Farm requires living simply, conserving resources, working hard and sharing stories. Each day the young men worked in the home of a community member on projects such as painting, siding, installing flooring or drywalling. Evenings focused on community living and learning about social justice issues.
St. Louis University High School
Students at St. Louis University High School found opportunities to serve both near and far:
- Costa Rica: Spanish teacher Maria Paz Campos and Jesuit Scholastic Michael Mohr, SJ, led students on a service and immersion trip to Santa Cruz, Costa Rica the first week of June. One group of students served at a daycare, and another helped out at an elementary school, where they painted murals, tiled floors and taught classes on topics such as community living and relationship building.
- Mexico: Led by Frank Corley and Patrick Zarrick, students provided a variety of service at a daycare in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico.
- St. Louis: Many sophomores stayed in St. Louis, logging 10 hours each of “Service of Presence to the Marginalized” this summer. The students, 109 in all, worked at sites that served both young and old and wrote reflections about their experiences. Forty-five upperclassmen also volunteered their time in a “Service of Presence” in or around the St. Louis.
Strake Jesuit College Preparatory School, Houston
More than 60 Strake Jesuit students participated in mission trips during spring and summer breaks this year:
- Eagle Pass, Texas: Fourteen Strake Jesuit community members joined with students from three other area Catholic high schools (Cristo Rey Jesuit, St. Agnes Academy and St. Pius X) to rebuilding interiors and re-roof homes in the surrounding border town area. Besides the labor-intensive work, students also took turns to work one day with kids of families who could not send them to daycare, in a camp-style setting. Students also visit the elderly and learn about immigrants in the area and the conditions they are confronted with.
- Pachar Community, Peru: More than 20 students and chaperones visited the village of Pachar, a rural community of Ollantaytambo, organized by local teams with Rustic Pathways. They learned about the Quechua traditions and way of life, and joined in projects of building bathrooms, improving kitchens and school facilities. Other cultural aspects of the trip include learning about the traditional weaving and the industry that provides their sustenance, and in visiting historical sites in the Sacred Valley.
- Punta Gorda, Belize: Sixteen students spent their week at St. Peter Claver parish in Punta Gorda and commuted to a local school where the project of building gazebos for the children at San Pedro Columbia school, among other projects of painting and remodeling. The group also assisted the parish in minor remodeling projects.
- Dominican Republic: Fourteen students contributed to the ongoing community development projects in San Pedro de Macoris and Hato Mayor bateyes organized by local NGOs and Rustic Pathways. Most projects in the Bateyes are construction-based—building latrines, blackwater treatment systems, houses, or upgrade standing homes from dirt floors to cement. The projects are community-initiated and overseen by local engineers, construction teams, and community leaders.
- To Do Commune, Vietnam: A group of 20 traveled to Mon village, home of the Muong people, an ethnic community. The group were in homestays in the community and assisted a newly built local school in building a wall structure as part of their safety infrastructure improvement project. Students restored the entrance to the school, painted a badminton court, and cleared space for a garden.
Tampa Jesuit High School, Tampa
Tampa Jesuit students were busy this summer, traveling the world to serve and immerse themselves in local communities and Ignatian spirituality. Eighty-two Tampa Jesuit students embarked on five mission trips:
- Rosebud Indian Reservation, South Dakota: Ten rising seniors ran a Vacation Bible School on the Rosebud Indian Reservation as part of the local St. Francis Mission. Senior Trent Alexander said, “I’ll never forget the kids I met; they changed my life forever.”
- Valley of the Angels School and Orphanage, Guatemala City, Guatemala: Thirteen rising juniors and seniors served at Valley of the Angels, a school and orphanage outside of Guatemala City, learning about companionship across continents and languages through play.
- Jasper, Ga., and Aiken, S.C.: Nearly 50 rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors served a poor, rural, elderly communities in Jasper and Aiken this summer. Students work hard with manual labor improvement projects like roofing, painting and yard work to uplift incapacitated and elder community members in Appalachia.
- Bogotá and Cartagena, Colombia: Ten rising juniors and seniors practiced servant leadership in conjunction with the international Jesuit service organization Fe y Alegría and local Colombian youth leaders. Students attended educational workshops, learned about environmental awareness and assisted their local partners in a mangrove cleanup.