"Through my experiences at Loyola through Campus Ministry, I have become committed to learning about social justice issues so that I can act upon them," reflects senior Andrew R. Locke. "As a result of this, I wanted to continue my work for social justice in my summer employment, and Loyola gave my the opportunity to do so through the Chicago Jesuit Academy."
Loyola's 2018 Province Scholars—Kaela B. Finegan '18, Andrew R. Locke '19, Joyce T. Matanguihan '19, James D. O'Meara '19, Claudia I. Pensamiento '19 and Maeve C. Silk '19—completed an online application in February that included a personal statement, two letters of recommendation and an onsite interview with a CJA staff member. A weeklong training session then prepared the scholars to work one on one and in small groups with sixth through eighth grade students at Chicago Jesuit Academy during the months of June and July.
For senior Maeve Silk '19, who has tutored refugee children at the Madonna Mission in Rogers Park through Loyola's Arrupe Service Program since her freshman year, the Province Scholars Program offered yet another way to connect with children in the community. "Volunteering at Madonna Mission has been very rewarding and taught me a lot," she says. "I thought I might have a similar experience at Chicago Jesuit Academy."
For five days a week, scholars assisted students with literacy and mathematics instruction in the mornings and met with CJA staff in the afternoons to debrief, receive feedback and improve practice.
James D. O'Meara '19 worked with sixth and seventh grade math and reading classes, assisting students with problems on their classwork and helping the lead teacher with classroom management. "Before this program, I did not see myself in the field of education," O'Meara admits. "After my experience this summer, I am much more open to a career as a teacher, and I am drawn to a career in helping others."
"My favorite part of this experience was the amazing opportunity to work with young boys who were willing to learn," says Claudia I. Pensamiento '19, who helped sixth and eighth grade students in reading and language arts.
Weekly seminar discussions and educational speakers acquainted the Province Scholars with possible career paths and education policy. Speakers included: Tony Harris, assistant principal of St. Ignatius College Prep; Brenda Cora, principal of Rowe-Clark Math & Science Academy; Mindy Sjoblom, dean at Relay Graduate School of Education; and Tony Ortiz, president of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School. Among the topics discussed each week were school funding, poverty's effect on the developing brain, teacher diversity, the opportunity gap, school choice and more. Scholars prepared for these seminars by reading articles that related to each topic.
"I really enjoyed hearing about antibias education because it introduced me to many challenging topics," says O'Meara. "All of these speakers showed me the different paths there are in education."
"I was able to grow so much through listening to the group of speakers and the group discussion," adds Pensamiento. "Learning from the other Province Scholars was an amazing opportunity that I never thought I would get the chance to experience."
As part of the criteria for admission to serve as a CJA Province Scholar, the program's website states that "candidates should have an interest in education and social justice and should be committed to the notion that all students can learn and have a right to a quality education."
"We look for students who believe deeply in a commitment to justice," explains Chicago Jesuit Academy Vice President of Operations Tom Van Grinsven, who codirects the Province Scholars Program with Sonia Odom, a sixth grade language arts and reading teacher. "We recruit for the program solely at Jesuit high schools because we know that students at those schools share a belief in the Grad-at-Grad values that we work to instill in our students at Chicago Jesuit Academy. During the summer, the Province Scholars model these values for our students while also growing in their own understanding of what it means to be a man or woman for others. Our hope is that the Province Scholars then take these experiences and consider deeply what they are called to do in service to others, whether that is in education or other fields."
O'Meara was drawn to the program because of the impact he saw on students' lives. "What was stressed at CJA was the Jesuit concept of cura personalis, or care for the whole person" he says. "I think what makes CJA so incredible is the care the faculty show toward the students."
For Pensamiento, the appeal was the way the program addresses relevant issues and current events. "I was first drawn to this opportunity because of my deep interest in social justice issues in general," she says. "I realized that this experience could positively shape and build my understanding of modern issues."