1/18/2011 2:48:00 PM Commitment to justice evident inside and outside the classroom
Jesuit High School photo
At Sen. Jeff Merkley's office are Jesuit students Sydney Hoffman, Anna Coccodrilli, Catherine Waldram, Mary Mulvey, Courtney Thompson (legislative assistant to Senator Merkley), Quinn McLafferty and Jonathan Sullivan.
Jesuit High School
9000 SW Beaverton Hillsdale Hwy. Portland, OR 97225 (503) 292-2663 www.jesuitportland.org Grades - 9-12 Enrollment - 1,235 Tuition - $10,500 Admissions and financial aid applications due: Jan. 14 Next open house: October 2011
In 2001, Jesuit High School began an adult education program, the Hurtado Center, for people who want to learn English as a Second Language. It has become one of the concrete signs of the school’s commitment to doing justice. Since the Hurtado Center’s opening, it has expanded its focus to include adult and youth English language acquisition, computer literacy, GED preparation and citizenship classes.
Each Monday and Wednesday evening, Jesuit students work alongside volunteer teachers to teach about 150 people from Washington County (mostly Latino immigrants) whose attendance is consistent as they work diligently to improve their family’s chances at a better life. Success is often measured in small steps at the Hurtado Center: speaking English in complete sentences and listing the Bill of Rights. So far, the Hurtado Center has helped more than 60 students pass pass their U.S. citizenship test.
The Hurtado Center has given the Jesuit community a personal perspective on immigration in the United States. By working with recent immigrants, students are able to put a face on an issue that is often misunderstood.
In November, 16 Jesuit students traveled to Washington, DC to lobby for comprehensive immigration reform as part of a gathering of Jesuit colleges and universities from around the country.
The students were divided into three groups with each group visiting a different member of Oregon’s Congressional delegation. During the visit at Senator Jeff Merkley’s office, one Jesuit student shared a story about his friend from grade school who came to the U.S. from Mexico with his parents when he was 3 and remains undocumented. He described his friend as an excellent student who would not be able to go to college because his immigration status does not allow him to apply for financial aid or attend a state university. He appealed for Senator Merkley to support the DREAM Act. He described how unfair it was that his friend was being punished for something over which he had no control. It was a powerful moment.
Upon returning to campus, students organized a letter-writing campaign to further pressure Congress to pass the DREAM Act. The act did not pass this time, but students will continue to educate the student body about the need for immigration reform during a week in March.
Jesuit students are taught the importance of service work, but, most importantly, they are challenged to act for social justice on behalf of all marginalized people. The Hurtado Center and Jesuit students’ participation in Washington are just two examples of how Jesuit High School is taking a stand for justice.
The writer is Christian Service Director at Jesuit.