I Didn't Know I Was Poor Until I Was Told I Was Poor

In my 12 years at Arrupe Jesuit High School, I’ve always been proud of walking with the “excluded.” As part of the Cristo Rey model, our school provides a rigorous college preparatory education, while also providing students with an opportunity to earn their education and gain valuable work experience. In 1980, in a document entitled Our Secondary Schools: Today and Tomorrow, Superior General Pedro Arrupe, SJ wrote, “We are committed to educate any class of person, without distinction,” and this is something that I feel Arrupe Jesuit does really well. 

I recently had the opportunity to talk with several Arrupe graduates, and ask about their experiences at the school and while participating in our work-study program. One experience that struck me in particular came from a recent graduate who said, “Honestly, when I was a student, I didn’t know I was poor until I was told I was poor."
He talked about feeling like an outsider, regardless of how welcoming and loving the school community was. He also spoke about how those feelings have shaped some of his current struggles with imposter syndrome, not only in college but also at work. Another struggle of his is tied to the labels he was given during his high school years: “a kid living on the margins,” “a student on the free-reduced lunch program," and “a member of an excluded community.”  
The point of this article is not to point fingers or to say that the work we’re doing is not good. Instead, this is a reminder that the work that we're doing is beautiful and amazing, and has the power to have lasting effects. When we work with “those living on the margins, the excluded and the poor,” let us remind ourselves that we need to be mindful of our interactions with our students. We need to make sure that what we’re doing values our students, and doesn’t reduce them to a statistic or a label. We should walk with those that have been excluded by others, but also be mindful of the way we talk to them. Moving forward, something I'm going to do is hold myself accountable and make sure that instead of focusing on a student’s deficits or lack of resources, I focus on his/her strengths and what gifts he/she brings to the organization. My hope is that future conversations with alumni sound like, “I didn’t know how talented I was until someone showed me how talented I was.” 

Additional Resources:

Learning from the Past: Fostering Belonging in Jesuit Schools

A recent episode of JSN's Ignatian Inquiry Podcast outlines the major findings of my dissertation, “Fifty Years of Underrepresented Student Advocacy,” which I completed as a part of the Doctor of Education program in Catholic Educational Leadership at the University of San Francisco.
Catholic and Jesuit schools hold themselves to a standard of being a community, proclaiming inclusion with explicit social justice missions, yet personal experience, as well as existing research, reveals that minoritized students feel like “welcomed outsiders” in our schools. 
This podcast episode explores what happens when adults within traditional Catholic and Jesuit school settings consistently support underrepresented students, and how schools change as a result. 
Many thanks to the McGrath Institute for Jesuit Catholic Education for supporting this research.  
Stay tuned for an upcoming Ignatian Inquiry Podcast episode with Mary Ann Vogel, Ed.D., Founding Principal of The Welsh Academy at Saint Ignatius High School, Cleveland. The episode, which will focus on reflections and lessons Vogel learned from opening a Nativity school, will be released toward the end of May.
Reinforcing NativityMiguel Coalition's Mission of Being Accessible to All
By Daniel Pérez, Executive Director, NativityMiguel Coalition

The NativityMiguel Coalition (NMC) recently went through a rebranding of new colors, fonts, photos, and logos. More importantly, our board had deep discussions reinforcing our mission to provide educational opportunities for our students to become their best and most authentic selves.

While not all NMC members are Jesuit schools, all member schools commit to following NMC’s Core Beliefs and Mission Alignment. One major differentiator is that our member schools are free or have low tuition, so they may be accessible to the families they serve. Our schools have limited funds and amenities but are overflowing with heart and hope.

"Vulnerable, marginalized communities should become companions of our schools to help us in the path of promoting social justice and the change of economic, political, and social structures that generate injustice." [A Living Tradition, 59]

There is much to learn from our NativityMiguel schools who walk with, and not just for, the poor and marginalized. I invite you to check our member schools directory and locate your nearest NativityMiguel school. Find ways to partner, whether it’s through school visits, shared professional development, and, most importantly, by committing to always remain accessible to NativityMiguel graduates.
Transforming Lives Through Regis' REACH Program

Regis High School’s REACH Program is an entirely tuition-free educational and leadership enrichment program that has transformed the lives of more than 500 Catholic, middle-school-aged boys by helping them earn scholarships to Regis and other top Catholic high schools in New York City.
Founded in 2002, REACH’s purpose is to strengthen learning and development for high-achieving young men who come from families facing significant economic and other challenges. More than $6.7 million in high school scholarships and financial aid were awarded to graduates in 2022 and 2023.

Catholic schools around the country have replicated REACH’s proven model for providing quality high school access to low-income families. These include the INES Program for girls at Loyola School in New York City, the Hurtado Scholars Program at Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, and Loyola Scholars at Creighton Prep in Omaha.
Educating Young Women Through Loyola School's INES Program

Founded in 2019, INES (Institute for Nurture, Enrichment, and Self-Empowerment) is a free educational and leadership enrichment program that prepares middle-school aged girls to succeed in top Catholic and independent high schools in New York City.
Students who participate in INES are devoted to making substantial gains in learning, leadership, and service to others. In alignment with the Ignatian spirit of cura personalis, INES strives to enroll highly motivated and deeply committed students from predominantly underserved backgrounds. 
The creation of the INES program was born not only out of Loyola school's commitment to educating young women of diverse backgrounds but also our commitment to increasing accessibility for young women to Jesuit education. Vastly inspired by the REACH Program, Loyola School felt that it was important to offer an alternative to young women. Since its inception, INES students have earned over $1,475,000 in scholarships and financial aid for their high school years.
Howley Scholars Program: Making Catholic Education Accessible
St. Joseph’s Preparatory School and Gesu School, neighboring schools in North Philadelphia, are partnering with the Howley Foundation to create a Scholars Program that will support Gesu middle school students in their efforts to attain acceptance and enrollment into St. Joseph's Prep for high school. 

The first cohort of the Gesu School-St. Joseph’s Prep Howley Scholars Program was selected based on academic performance, commitment to their studies, and involvement of their families. Over the next three years, the young men will receive expanded academic offerings, including participating in a specially-designed test prep program and involvement in St. Joseph’s Prep summer programs. In addition, they will be mentored by a Prep freshman student who is also a Howley Scholar and will be invited to attend Prep community events. 
This program embodies both schools' missions, helping Gesu School in their efforts to find outstanding high school placements for their students and supporting St. Joseph’s Prep’s efforts to continue enrolling highly capable students.

Click here to learn more about the Gesu School-St. Joseph's Prep Howley Scholars Program.
Educating for Grit: Making Nature Accessible to All

"Mighty Boots was a fun and exciting experience this year for all of us. Not only did it give us the opportunity to do things we had never done before, but it taught us some lessons along the way as well. I think that going on hikes was a great way of giving us a challenging and fun experience; we got to have field trips and do things we may not have thought we could do. I learned to never say you can't do something because when we were on Piestewa Peak, it was challenging and I still got to the top." - Rolando, 7th Grader
In 2021, Danny Taber, a 2005 graduate of Brophy College Preparatory, reached out about a program he and his wife had started - Mighty Boots Wilderness Project. He was curious about a partnership between our Loyola Academy Scholars and his new program - which has a mission to build leadership and confidence through outdoor adventures, with a focus on offering those opportunities to marginalized youth. Since the inception of the Academy, we have offered monthly field trips to the scholars, but this quickly seemed like a way to create a cohesive program that offered more than time out of school. This was clearly a way to give boys the experience of developing grit - situations that demanded teamwork and self-reliance in order to accomplish something difficult. All while experiencing the amazing landscape that surrounds Phoenix

For the last two years, Danny has shown up, grabbed a group of boys, and taken them on monthly adventures. They have hiked just about every mountain around town, gone rock-climbing, pitched their own tents and built their own fires in the White Tanks, and this week, our 8th graders are embarking on a four-day river rafting trip through Southern Utah. 

Rolando described it best in his comment above. This partnership has been an amazing combination of fun, challenge, and beauty - all while giving the boys a tangible experience of overcoming something. 
The Red Chair: Education is a Human Right

Around the world, The Red Chair (La Silla Roja in Spanish) is a symbol of the right to education for all people. The campaign is an opportunity to bring the voices of marginalized communities into our schools and advocate for their rights. There are three simple but important objectives: Raise awareness, Encourage Reflection, and Promote Action.

As the international solidarity office of the Jesuits in the US, Magis Americas works with the International Federation of Fe y Alegría to provide educational opportunities to students who live “where the asphalt ends, where the drinking water does not drip, where the city loses its name.” As we continue to work to more fully integrate students from all social classes into our school communities, we must assure that everyone has access to meaningful education opportunities. 

Whether you're making use of our Action Packets and Lesson Plans or drawing on the hundreds of resources that Educate Magis and other websites offer, The Red Chair campaign unites us in our shared conviction that everyone deserves an education. 
JRS Implements Educational Services for Refugees in Crisis

As a Jesuit Institution, the Jesuit Refugee Service is committed to ensuring that children who are forced to flee their homes and communities are not deprived of their right to education and a path to a hopeful and productive future. JRS implements educational services in emergency situations as well as in protracted displacement crises, offering several levels of education programs and adult literacy courses. 
Education provides stability and a sense of normalcy; it engenders hope while preparing refugees to meet future challenges. This is something that students who joined JRS/USA Advocacy Day know very well. 
On March 28th, students and teachers from Georgetown Prep (MD), Regis Jesuit High School, St. Ignatius College Prep (IL), St. Ignatius Prep (CA), Belen Jesuit Prep (FL), Loyola School (NY), and Loyola Blakefield (MD) met with policymakers to discuss the need for at least $1.2 billion for International Basic Education, including $50 million for Education Cannot Wait, in the FY2024 State and Foreign Operations bill. 
If you also want to help us in our work of promoting social justice and the change of economic, political, and social structures that generate injustice with our brothers and sisters, refugees and migrants, click here
Initiative Six of JSN's Strategic Plan: To Support Accessibility for All Qualified Students

The Ignatian principle of cura personalis inspires those who are engaged in Jesuit education to place the care of the individual at the center of every educational process. As such, access to Jesuit education should always be determined through the lens of the uniqueness of the individual who possesses gifts and talents that sometimes lie outside the norm. This is particularly important in welcoming families with limited financial resources and supporting students with learning and physical ability differences.   
Ignatian Eco Educators Regional Summit

Are you passionate about ecological issues and working at a secondary school in the Greater Midwest Region (Colorado to New York)? Join the Ignatian Eco Educators Regional Summit from June 13 to 15 in Cleveland, OH! Learn more at igsol.net/eco-educator.
Walking With the Excluded: "Homeless Jesus" Project
Ten years ago, Regis College, the Jesuit School of Theology in Toronto, accepted the installation of a statue created by Timothy Schmalz, named Jesus the Homeless. In recognition of the anniversary, Fr. Gordon Rixon, SJ, President of Regis College, invited the Jesuit schools across Canada, along with University of Saint Michael's College Director of Campus Ministry Sr. Sonal Castelino and other interested parties, to participate in an online forum focused on the homeless.
Five of the seven schools associated with the Canada province took part. In preparation for the forum, students in each school were to make a connection with one or more homeless people in their city, listen to their story, and reflect on the reality of homelessness and how the Gospel, as portrayed by the statue, speaks to this reality.

Representatives from each school presented their reflections in the presence of the sculptor, who had an opportunity to react to the insights that the students shared, and then to respond to their questions. 
Mother Teresa Middle School (Nativity), in Regina, spoke of their encounter with Crazy Horse, which led them to create a replica statue, while Gonzaga Middle School in Winnipeg (also a Nativity model), presented the work of their students in collaboration with the Mama Bear Clan, a social organization that cares for “our unsheltered relatives." St. Paul’s High School in Winnipeg recounted the success story of a once-homeless woman who, supported by her faith and a loving community, was able to change her circumstances. Loyola High School in Montreal told the story of a young man whose family had no secure housing and often occupied abandoned buildings. The students referred to him as “the invisible homeless." St. Bonaventure’s College in St. John’s talked about the school’s connection with the Gathering Place, a social center in the school's neighborhood that serves the homeless.
The most important outcome from the forum was the personalization of homelessness, rendering it not just a theoretical social problem, but rather the lived experience of real persons whom the students now know by name and with whom they now have a personal relationship.