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A Jesuit College Preparatory Experience
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Solidarity Workshop Day Ignites Dialogue and Exploration

Loyola Academy’s annual Solidarity Project (April 1–17) kicked off with a comprehensive Workshop Day on Monday, April 1. Sophomores, juniors and seniors had the opportunity to hear from two keynote speakers and choose three sessions from nearly fifty workshops that addressed this year’s theme: Capturing the Power of Technology.
“This year’s theme looks at the many implications technology has in today’s society, both positive and negative,” explains the project’s organizer, Campus Minister Mr. Christopher Knoth. “We want students to encounter issues of injustice through the lens of technology.”
 
The day began with a film produced by Ryan Dombrowski ’20 featuring himself; Mr. Keith Brown, moderator of Loyola’s Slam Poetry Club and visual arts teacher; and fellow Ramblers Kabelo Muhammad ’19, Kaylle Flores ’19 and Evan Hernandez ’20 performing spoken poetry that introduced the concept for the day.

From their classrooms, students then assembled in the West Gym where sophomore Ashley Jablonski introduced the first keynote address. Fr. Eric Sundrup, SJ is associate editor and director of audience development at America Media and founder of The Jesuit Post, a website that discusses the intersection of faith and culture for a young adult audience. His presentation focused on the evolution of our interactions with technology, asking students: How is God calling us to use technology?
 
From there, students dispersed to smaller group workshops, which they selected based on a list of discussions and speakers circulated in advance. A wide range of topics included environmental sustainability, immigration, cyberbullying, criminal justice, race, entrepreneurship, bioethics, journalism and mental health. Subtopics allowed for deeper discussion on economics, gender and sexual identity, civil rights, criminal justice and more. Workshops utilized multiple formats such as simulation, discussion, media viewing, performance and collaborative work. Each concluded with a call to action to continue the conversation and activity beyond the day.  

Several workshop sessions included the presentations of Loyola Academy students in the Ignatian Service Learning Program (ISL), which enables students to learn about social justices issues in academic courses across the curriculum through a blend of community service, reflective exercises and discussions. ISL students presented their research findings and explained their collaboration with partner organizations to their peers.  

In Loyola’s new STEAM laboratory, one ISL environmental science student, Alejandra DeLeon ’19, presented her honors capstone project that studied the possibility of utilizing single use plastic straws at Loyola. DeLeon appreciated the format of the day and flexibility students had to personalize their workshops based on the topics that interested them. “That made the day more enjoyable,” she said adding, “We were given the chance to learn in a different manner and expand our knowledge on the topic we chose.”
 
A sample of the day’s workshops follows:
  • African Clean Stoves. Students learned about problems related to climate change and indoor air pollution in developing countries. Loyola Academy Science Teacher Joe Dahm presented an innovative solution to these problems—clean stoves powered by solar panels that can double as cell phone charging units!
  • Amplifying the Voice of the Immigrant: Teaching & Learning from Adult Migrants. A fast-paced experience, this workshop was jam-packed with student-led presentations. Students learned from upperclassmen in Ignatian Service Learning classes how they can be in better solidarity with those on the margins with something as simple as an iMovie.
  • Holocaust Survivor Stories Preserved through Technology. Students interacted with a 2D beta model of the hologram technology used at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, discussing the importance and effectiveness of preserving survivor stories through technology. Presented by Amanda Friedman, Harvey L. Miller Family Youth Educator
  • Nonprofit Videos: Inspiring or Harmful? Molly MacCready, founder and executive director of the Child Restoration Outreach Support Organization, took students through a closer look at how nonprofit organizations utilize media to convey messages about their mission and influence our ability to respect the dignity of others.
  • Jumpstart in the Community: Support for Syrian Refugee Families. Students explored the ways in which we can combat misconceptions of Syrian refugee youth and how we can relate to one another, no matter the previous circumstances we may have faced. Using the information and stories they hear, Leena Zahra, community program coordinator at the Karam Foundation, encouraged students to show they can relate to students their age (Syrian refugees) and how they can be part of a shared community.
  • Are You a Victim of Your Own Devices? Michael J. Weber, partner at Dinsmore & Shohl, LLP and a Loyola parent, discussed the evolving risks that students face with the increased dependence on technology and social media.
  • Braille as iPhone. Students examined how the technology of braille as a system of writing and reading developed and has largely been replaced by other adaptive technologies and devices for the blind. Led by Alexander Brown, executive director of Friedman Place
For a complete listing of the day’s workshops, click here.

In addition, the top six documentaries produced by Ignatian Service Learning students to raise awareness for their community partners were screened in the Loyola Academy theater during the “Reel Advocacy” film festival. Audience members voted on the best films, and the winners earned cash prizes benefiting their community partners.

Finishing in first place, Samantha Sayre ’19, Bryn Buikema ’19 and Thomas Lindstrom ’19 received $500 for their community partner The Well of Mercy, which provides a secure home in Chicago for single, pregnant women in need. Second place went to Caitlin Walsh ’19, Aidan Koconis-O’Malley ’19, Virginia Hiteshew ’19, Varun Joseph ’19, Claire Goss ’19 and Ellie Slattery ’19, who received $300 for Northside Housing and Supportive Services, a comprehensive human services agency in Ravenswood dedicated to ending and preventing homelessness. Third place was awarded to Brooke O'Neill ’19, Marcus Foy ’19, Jimmy O'Meara ’19, Grace Ritter ’19, Emily Cerimele ’19 and Joyce Matanguihan ’19. Their $200 cash prize will benefit Wilmette’s Our Place, which supports teens and adults with developmental disabilities.

Luke Kitchie ’19 was responsible for introducing some of the Ignatian Service Learning student presentations throughout the day. “I believe Solidarity Day allowed students to get a better understanding of what justice within service can be,” he reflected. Kitchie admits he was surprised by how much he learned—especially about the environment—and the number of great conversations that were initiated. “Loyola offering a day like this is not only informative, but it also starts a conversation. When a conversation is started, things start changing. Loyola can make real justice happen with this day.”

The day concluded with a final keynote address introduced by senior Emma HahnDr. Julia Garcia, founder of The Rewrite Project, delivered a raw and energizing presentation that encouraged students to be true to themselves, to rewrite the stigma of mental health and to support one another.
 
“Although the sheer power of technology appears ultimately limitless, we wanted to emphasize that technology is rendered useless in the absence of human context,” says Knoth. “In other words, technology alone cannot create social change. The mission of Solidarity Project 2019 is to empower students to begin to understand their social responsibility. This awareness will hopefully results in articulation of and a movement toward the Christian actions of companionship, advocacy and stewardship.”
 
To learn more about Loyola Academy’s 2019 Solidarity Project, click here.
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    • Solidarity Workshop Day: Fr. Eric Sundrup, SJ

      Keynote Speaker: Fr. Eric Sundrup, SJ

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