For a week in October, Loyola’s Center for Service and Justice typically sends its delegation to the annual Ignatian Family Teach-in for Justice, the nation’s largest social justice conference. Traditionally, Loyola sends a group of around 15 students to attend the conference in Washington, D.C., but the Teach-in this year occurred virtually in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Teach-in’s theme was Prophetic Resilience: Building Up and Breaking Down. From Oct. 16 to Oct. 25, the delegation heard from guests such as Father James Martin, S.J., learning about the need to gather as members of a community committed to social justice for continued education and action.
Senior Sameer Nayyar, who attended both last year’s and this year’s Teach-in, said, “I really enjoyed the virtual teach-in. I had the privilege of being able to attend last year, and I’m glad I could go this year as well. Though it was definitely a different experience attending the teach-in virtually, I was still able to learn a lot from the experience. Given the pandemic and recent rising tensions over racial injustice, this teach-in felt more impactful than ever. I’m also glad I was able to join some of my peers in speaking to staffers of Judy Chu after the teach-in, much like how we were able to last year.”
Each year, after Teach-in weekend, the Loyola delegation also participates in Ignatian Advocacy Day, where they walk to Capitol Hill and lobby Congressional representatives on various social issues such as climate justice and healthcare.
Senior Victor Carolino, who also went on the trip to Washington, D.C. last year, said, “It was eye opening. It will be as good of an experience as you are willing to make it. It was a good experience in keeping composure when presenting issues that a community would like to address.”
Because the delegation could not make their annual march on Washington, they adjusted by hosting a Zoom call with Ms. Lauren Jacobs and Mr. Jonathan Horton, Constituent Services Representatives for Congresswoman Judy Chu of California’s 27th district.
One of the main talking points throughout the hour was how students of Loyola could get involved with the local community and effect positive changes that aid in larger efforts to promote racial equity. Loyola’s delegation inquired Judy Chu’s representatives on what steps could be taken to not only better inform Cubs on social injustices in the school’s community but also to take action despite the barriers entrenched by COVID-19.
Jacobs said, “In terms of getting involved, it’s about looking at the current political climate and looking at your current skills and background and how you can apply that to get involved in what’s going on. Personal involvement is great. Find out who your local city council members are to who your state representatives are to who your congressional members are. It doesn’t always need to be the Congressmember necessarily. A lot of very important political decisions happen on the local level too. Look specifically at the area you grew up in for opportunities to get involved.”
Jacobs and Horton both started as congressional interns and worked with interns that came after them, so they imparted valuable advice to everyone interested in becoming involved congressionally and beyond the local sphere.
Horton said, “Jonathan and I both started as interns. It’s a great way to learn about the inner workings of a district office and a different side of politics. I still think about my intern days on the daily, and it gave me the baseline skills I use today.”
As a parting message to the attendees of the virtual Teach-in, Horton advised, “If you can’t vote yet, you can volunteer. You can knock on doors, place door hangers, get involved in clubs for things like racial and environmental justice. You can help register people to vote. Even if you aren’t old enough to vote, you can do things to help people vote.”