During the weekend of November 15 through November 18, six St. Ursula students and seventeen St. Xavier students traveled to Washington, D.C., to attend the Ignatian Family Teach In for Justice. These students included senior Anna Ehrsam, juniors Abi Gold, Kaya Stone, and Alivia Hyland, and sophomores Charlotte Maliborski and Ellie Bender. They were also accompanied by Ms. Roman and Ms. Elsbrock.
This teach-in is an annual conference of Jesuit institutions all across the country that meet to further understand and advocate for justice issues in our world today. The main subjects discussed in the conference included racism, immigration, and the environment. This four day weekend was full of enjoyment and discovery on topics we had yet to learn about within the so called “bubble” of our schools.
To begin our trip, on Friday, November 15th, all of the St. Ursula and St. X students met up at CVG airport to fly to Washington. We arrived at about 9:00 P.M. and got settled into our hotel rooms at the Crystal Marriott in Arlington! Later that night, we went back to the lobby to meet with the St. X students and participate in some ice-breakers.
Abi Gold says that she was “extremely excited to go into the conference and to meet new people! I had never been to Washington before, so when we saw the capital out of our window while [the plane was] landing, it was truly breathtaking and beautiful!”
The next day, Saturday, we all woke up at about 7:00 A.M. in order to eat breakfast and obtain our caffeine fix before a long day of sightseeing! All of us traveled on the Metro to the circle of museums and memorials, and we all separated to go explore. Kaya, Abi, and I went to the Lincoln and Washington Memorial, the Holocaust Museum, the African American Museum, and the Capital.
After five hours of sightseeing, all of us met up at the Metro, in order to get back in time for our first session! We opened up with prayer, and listened to many speakers including Chloe Becker of Cleveland's Magnificat High School, Sr. Peggy O’Neill, and many more. After this discussion, we had our first large-scale breakout sessions centered on topics like racial justice, the death penalty, and poverty. After these sessions, our group of St. X and St. Ursula students participated in a reflection on the day.
Ellie Bender adds that she “felt exhausted, but extremely happy! I spent the day making new friends and being surrounded by people who were the same as myself. Everyone I met on Saturday was there because they wanted to do something to change the world, and that was an incredibly empowering feeling.”
The next morning, Sunday, we woke up early in preparation for a long day of conferencing and learning about issues we felt passionate about. All of us met in the conference room prepared and thrilled to begin the day! Some of us also went to Rite Aid during our break and bought sparkly notebooks, pens, and supplies for a much needed spa night! There were so many break-out sessions to choose and learn more about including fair trade initiatives, racism, children in poverty, LGBTQ+ justice within schools, and so much more!
After these empowering sessions, we had our spa night! Our extravagant evening featured nail painting, face masks (along with chemical burns), and delicious snacks, sponsored by the Whole Foods down the street!
Later that night, we had advocacy training in order to prepare us to speak in front of our state representatives. Although it was stressful to prepare a “speech” and make it sound professional, we all did an amazing job of advocating and making points about racism, immigration, and environmental justice we felt strongly about.
Kaya Stone explains that “I feel empowered and that my gender and age couldn’t stop me from advocating for what I think is right.”
The following day was our long awaited talks with our state representatives, Steve Chabot and Brad Wenstrup. We finalized our scripts and hurriedly made the trek to the capital by taking the metro. Right outside of the metro on Capitol Hill, there was a rally to get us all hyped for the day to come. After this rally, we went to our first talk with Senator Brown’s assistant to talk about environmental justice. He made many great points and told us that they were working on introducing a “Clean Car Act”, which would make cars more environmentally friendly.
Next, we traversed to the Native American Museum to fill up an hour between our meetings with our representatives. We first met with Brad Wenstrup and gave our talks on the environment, racism, and immigration before going downstairs to give the same talk to Steve Chabot. The experience was truly life changing and taught us that you don't have to be a certain age to advocate and make change for issues we feel that need to be addressed.
Then came the bittersweet moment of the journey of riding back on the metro, getting our suitcases, and going back to the airport. Although we were all happy to go back and see our families, we were sad to leave such an amazing experience and surprised by how quickly it went by!
Charlotte Maliborski remembers “When we left D.C., I was so sad for such a good experience to be over. Not just having made amazing friends and having a blast, but also being able to stand up for what I’m passionate about and learning more about justice issues. I left with much more knowledge then I came with and am excited to put it into action!”
Overall, it was a liberating experience that everyone will remember forever. It was amazing to learn about topics we were passionate about and we all hope to go back next year.
Anna Ehrsam concludes, “Overall, the trip was a fantastic way to overcome challenges within yourself and politics. I was able to make new friends and truly be myself. Even though we were just high schoolers, I feel like we got an amazing opportunity to speak up for what we believe in. I would highly recommend this trip and personally, I am very sad that this was my last opportunity to go on a trip with Saint Ursula.”
Ms. Roman adds, "It is so incredible to see the fire of social justice burning bright in the eyes of students at the Ignatian Family Teach In for Justice! SUA students and students across the globe were being the change they wished to see in the world."
Ms. Elsbrock asserts, “IFTJ is an amazing experience. From the prayer for the martyrs who have given their lives for the cause of justice, to the 2000 plus attendees coming together in one voice to call for justice, one cannot help but be inspired by the weekend.”