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Ramblers Reflect During Ignatian Service Learning Symposium

During the last week of April, Loyola Academy's Ignatian Service Learning Program (ISL) hosted its annual symposium, where students showcased a year’s worth of their service projects in reflective presentations. The ISL program puts the Jesuit value of service front-and-center in the classroom by combining instruction with meaningful volunteer work in the community. This format enables students to learn about social justice issues in academic courses across the curriculum and apply their knowledge to real-life situations through community service.
"Reflection and discussion as well as project-based learning are all core pedagogical strategies emphasized in these classes," explained Dr. Tim Martin, the program’s director.

Throughout the school year, students volunteered with a variety of local charities and organizations such as Madonna Mission, Our Place and The North Shore Branch Restoration Project, examining social issues such as climate change and socioeconomic inequalities. Then, in April, Ramblers reflected on their experiences at the symposium. The leading question for students this year was: What does it really mean to be women and men for others?

Sophomore Hannah Beil volunteered with Madonna Mission, a non-profit organization that provides education and resettlement support programs to refugee individuals and their families. "Service was important to me this year because it opened my eyes to the issues of academic inequality and the lack of programming to help refugee children inside of Chicago Public Schools," she said. At the symposium, Hannah participated in a panel with classmates. Her group discussed ideas of radical kinship and how helping even in the smallest ways can still lead to sweeping change.

Students in Environmental Science classes presented their plans for the garden at 3434 Illinois Rd, a vacant lot just north of Loyola Academy. Their goal is to not only create a space where community members can gather or enjoy quiet reflection, but also a one that coalesces with the natural surroundings. To support the local ecosystem, for example, students have carefully chosen plants that are native to the area. They have also explored ways to grow produce year-round and ways to support the community through gardening.

Marin Rooney ’24 volunteered with The North Branch Restoration Project, which works to rehabilitate Chicagoland’s forest preserves. Using a digital program called Procreate to illustrate an art piece that depicted the past and future of native lands, Rooney was able to assist with protecting the biodiversity of the forest preserves by highlighting invasive and non-native species that are affecting their health. "I think that the Service Learning Program has helped me live out Jesuit values, especially when it comes to being committed to justice. Even the smallest action can help," she says.

At several panel discussions throughout the symposium, students reflected on the benefits of a Jesuit education and considered how understanding another’s perspective is paramount in creating social change. "All courses utilize Ignatian Service Learning themes that are really at the heart of the Jesuit mission," says Dr. Martin, citing themes like radical kinship and reciprocity in service, service as savoring rather than saving, and the call to bring about social justice and use a Loyola education to act on behalf of a more just world.
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