>> lem >> saint mary's college high school // peace and justice program

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free. And to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house? (Isaiah 58.6-7)

The Lasallian Catholic Peace and Justice Education Program is a cross-curricular, multi-disciplinary, and school-wide event that explores contentious moral issues and social problems affecting our local and global communities from a variety of perspectives.

Occurring over the course of three days once per trimester, the aim of the program is to awaken a spirit of confidence and responsibility in students so that they are able to advocate for a peaceful world that is more just, compassionate, and loving.

Cues from Catholic Social Teaching, Liberation Theology, and Critical Pedagogy
The program takes its cues from the heritage of Catholic Social Teaching, Liberation Theology, and Critical Pedagogy. The magisterium's teaching on social issues provide the foundations for our exploration, from liberation theology we pattern our days after the model of See, Judge, and Act, and from critical pedagogy we take the concept of student-centered and student-generated themes. The issues and themes pertain to the present life-world of young people and the causes that our students are passionate about.

Peace and Justice Weeks: These Three Days
Before the week begins, the student preparation team from the Peace and Justice club, in collaboration with several art students, develop an art installation in the middle of campus that communicates the issue in an artistic, visceral, and sometimes, tactile way.

Forming a kind of mini Triduum, the first day seeks to frame the issue and to allow community to feel the issue. The day is usually marked with a student-led performance assembly involving the performing arts programs. Music, dance, theater, and spoken word come together to present the issue in a way that allows students to connect emotionally and empathically with the issue.

The second day generally involves having a community guest speaker with first-hand knowledge and expertise in the issue speaks with our students. As experts, these guest speakers share their experiences and often lead workshops or class-wide discussions that spark debate and help to generate new ideas and new ways of thinking about the issue.

On the third day, the student preparation team and students from various participating classes and departments lead teach-ins and town hall meetings with their peers. With the research that these students have conducted, their task includes stimulating and provoking discussion. Students learn how to mediate and to lead while simultaneously engaging and challenging their peers toward action.

Outreach and Outgrowth
From time to time, students are inspired to further the causes explored during our Peace and Justice Weeks.

Examples of this outgrowth include the formation of a Fair Trade club and advocacy for Fair Trade causes. This came about as a result of our exploration of the unintended consequences and effects of capitalism on laborers. As a result Saint Mary's College High School is now a certified Fair Trade school. Students on campus continue to ensure that products sold on campus reflect the outcomes they originally advocated for.

We explored the issues of water rights on campus in the midst of the governor of California declaring a drought. This led students to advocate for reusable water bottles and the installation of water hydration stations on campus. In an effort to understand this issue from a global perspective, the students learned of the difficulties that our twin school in Nyeri, Kenya was having with securing potable water for school operations on a monthly basis. To that end, our students launched the gave it up to get it built campaign which saw the community give up their Starbucks or Jamba Juice money and instead donate it to a fund that will help to secure a water tower for our twin school.

Student Reflections
"The peace and justice education program helped me grow as a student and person in a world full of injustice. Looking back at my time at Saint Mary's, one of my highlights was being involved in creating this program. During one Peace and Justice week: Immigration, I empathized and learned about issues that directly affected me.

A principle of Lasallian education is to have concern for the poor and social justice and this is exactly what the peace and justice program allows one to do. The knowledge I gained during my time as a student leader has helped me tremendously in college as I continue to be involved in social justice based activities.

At Saint Mary's, I became a well rounded student filled with textbook knowledge but more importantly, on knowledge about issues that will affect our world for years to come. In conclusion, through the program I was able to think critically, feel deeply, and gain a whole new outlook on what it means to be a citizen of the world." - Ariadna Diaz '11 (now at University of California Davis)

"The Peace and Justice program completely turned my view of the world upside down (or, really, right side up). The times I had, I will never forget. The program enabled me to free my fears, and consequently abolish my ignorance on multiple social justice issues. Being with the people in the program was the first time I felt like I was fully fitting in somewhere. Also, I developed my leadership skills, my ability to be empathetic, my work ethic." - Luke Rose '12 (now at Loyola University - New Orleans)

Our hope is that students involved in this program will graduate from Saint Mary's College High School as agents of transformation working actively to create the world in which human dignity is values, and where the common good can coexist in a spirit of solidarity with one another.



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