by Taylor Brethauer & Melissa Gallardo, Staff Writers
On Nov. 7, a group of Manhattan College students traveled down to Washington D.C. to participate in the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice, where high school and college students attended workshops and listened to key-note speakers touch on social justice topics such as environmental justice, human rights in Central America and immigration reform.
Founded 18 years ago, the Teach-In started in response to six Jesuit martyrs and their two family companions who were killed on Nov. 16, 1989 in El Salvador during the civil war. People realized they needed to respond not through protest but by changing policy and looked into the underlying structural elements of poverty, racism, war and violence that caused these things to happen to begin with. Activists people took to Washington D.C. to try to change policy. The event has been going on every year in an effort to raise awareness about the power of advocacy and to make the voice of young people heard on Capitol Hill.
“It was a positive environment and it felt really fulfilling being there and being able to feel like you’re making a difference. It was an inspiring thing to see so many young people come together and stand up for what they believe in,” sophomore Allison Ready said, who went on the trip.
It was a two day conference on Saturday, Nov. 7 and Sunday, Nov. 8. Over the course of the first day there were keynote speakers including Sister Helen Prejean, Dr. Maureen O’Connell and Rudy López. There were also small breakout sessions where participants discussed fair trade, volunteering after graduation, the LGBT community and how they fit into the Catholic world and how people can be more loving.
On Sunday, there was training from Capitol Hill lobbyists who work for immigration reform, environmental policy and human rights in Central America.
“It was an amazing experience that helped illuminate the radical powers of advocacy. That we are voters and citizens and therefore we should be exercising our right to have a voice in our government,” Campus Minister Conor Reidy said.
Finally, on Monday, the students went to Capitol Hill with over thousands of students and got ready to have meetings with representatives and senators. They met with one of the aids that works for Senator Chuck Schumer who was an expert on immigration reform.
“It was an amazing experience. I never thought that words could make such a difference. Talking to a representative in Chuck Schumer’s office was an amazing opportunity and it was very satisfying coming back and knowing that my opinion was heard by someone of authority,” junior Christopher Hoey said.
With the Teach-In touching on topics relevant to current events, students were able to leave with a lasting impact based on the speakers and the experience of the lobbying itself.
“We need to be able to make our voice heard on these issues,” Reidy said.