Education as a tool for transformation
How many times a day are we exposed to news of the alarming realities that many of our fellow brothers and sisters face? The protection of individuals’ dignity, the commitment to ensuring basic rights, and the safety and health of our common home are all at risk. We live in an increasingly connected world yet, sometimes, it is hard to connect and empathize with each other’s realities. Seeing past ourselves and accepting our interdependencies as strengths can help us take our place as agents of change for a more humane world. To stand in solidarity in the mission of justice and reconciliation and realize our role as Global Citizens, we first need to see the possibility of change.
The choices we collectively make today will determine our shared futures. One of these choices, perhaps the most important, is how we are educating the leaders of tomorrow. Education is the basic human right, key in accessing all other rights and inevitably linked with our responsibility as Global Citizens. Yet, today more than 260 million children and youth are denied this right.
Education is a tool for societal transformation. It cultivates understanding and builds capabilities that can help us create more just and equitable societies. Education mobilizes knowledge to help us navigate a transforming and uncertain world. Global Citizenship Education (GCE) takes this to the global stage. It has the power to connect us with the world, encouraging us to revisit our assumptions, be critical in our analysis of current issues, engage in collective action, and include others in possible solutions. GCE exposes us to new possibilities, leading us in changing the course and transforming education.
The “La Silla Roja” campaign, Magis Americas’ annual GCE campaign, encourages students to take action locally and globally, transforming their mindsets and educational experiences. Every year, the “La Silla Roja” campaign works to defend the right to an equitable and inclusive education. In 2021, the campaign led students and youth through a process of reflection, awareness, and action in which they ultimately made a Promise to Education (#APromise2Education). Students took on their responsibility as Global Citizens and realized that #APromise2Education is a promise for opportunities, agency, and the contribution of creating a more inclusive and just world.
Global Citizenship Education in Action
At least eight high schools within the Jesuit School Network participated, in this year’s campaign, all in different forms. Here are some examples and takeaways from students and teachers.
St. Peter’s Preparatory
“Introducing students to ‘La Silla Roja’ was an incredibly rewarding experience….I believe in the transformative power of education as a tool to empower students and broaden their perspectives and engaging with this campaign edified that belief as I watched my students apply their knowledge for the betterment of our world.” – Salvatore Veniero, Director of Global Initiatives
The St. Peter’s Prep Global Ed Club took the initiative to bring “La Silla Roja” to their school. The board members of the club went through the three phases of the challenge, and decided their Promise to Education would be a series of activities for fellow students to get involved and learn more:
- Presenting the “La Silla Roja” campaign to the freshman and sophomore classes
- Painting red chairs to place around the school
- Participating in a “La Silla Roja” scavenger hunt
- Letter writing to congress
- Tutoring students from a Fe y Alegría school in Peru
James Popadick, Senior
“I participated in the ‘La Silla Roja’ campaign because I wanted to be able to make a direct impact on not only my school community but also the community of individuals who currently lack the access to education that is essential in the lives of all people.”
Joshua Pascale, Senior
“My biggest takeaway from this program was gaining a greater sense of gratitude for everything I’ve been given in my life.”
Evan Merkov, Sophomore
“’La Silla Roja’ campaign [gave me the] wonderful opportunity to give back to my global community, and it is an experience I will keep with me for a long time to come.”
Jesuit High School, Tampa
“This year’s ‘La Silla Roja’ campaign was an impactful experience for our students. They were able to learn about how the pandemic has increased educational inequities and the concrete ways Fe y Alegría is working to bring quality educational experiences to those most in need. The ‘La Silla Roja’ campaign not only made our students aware of the problem, but also inspired them to take action to promote educational opportunities for all.” – Dr. Cristina Delano, Foreign Language Department
The La Gente Club took the lead in painting two chairs red and placing them around the school. Throughout the fall semester, a series of Spanish classes went through the challenge and students made their Promises to Education.
Archie Teller, Class of 2022
“’La Silla Roja’ is a great metaphor for the need to improve education, and the activities with it that I have done have helped me do my part for this cause. The biggest action I have taken so far was giving a speech in front of my whole school about the ‘La Silla Roja’ campaign, what it means, and what our school can do to help.”
Diego Cubas, Class of 2023
“Painting la ‘Silla Roja’ allowed me to reflect on the social crisis of kids who are deprived of school. I believe it was a great way to help bring awareness to the people around the school.”
Sam Forman, Class of 2023
“While participating in the ‘La Silla Roja’ project at school, I learned about how lucky I was. In the activity, the issues regarding education and health in countries like Peru and Ecuador were brought to my attention, which is something that had never been done before. This activity helped to inspire me to contribute to my own community by helping teach the children at my local religious school.”
St. Xavier High School Portland
“We investigated the various reasons why some children do not have access to quality education and how organizations like Fe y Alegría work to provide this fundamental human right to the world’s youth. Magis Americas’ ‘La Silla Roja’ project fit perfectly with our unit, and when I introduced the project to the class, students responded with enthusiasm. In fact, they even generated some of their own ideas to augment the project.” – Therese Bower, English Teacher & Global Education Coordinator
The Global Perspectives class went through the ‘La Silla Roja’ challenge, and in addition to painting a red chair, students suggested a couple of ideas of their own to increase the impact of the project:
- They placed red tape across 29% of the desks in the school’s classrooms to represent the percentage of children worldwide who do not complete secondary school
- They also 29% of the student body to wear red shirts on a designated day, and then arranged to deliver an education-themed Examen during homeroom.
- They did research on the issue
- Met with the school principal
- Made posters for the display in the main stairwell
- Composed and shared an Examen to the school community
“Through the ‘La Silla Roja’ Project, I have learned that finding ways to help with global issues is important in my development as a global citizen.”
“‘La Silla Roja’ really made me appreciate the opportunity that I have been given to attend such a great school and to receive an amazing education. It also taught me how to work as part of a team. We all had different roles, from talking to the principal, to making posters, to writing and reading an Examen for the entire school.”
Brooklyn Jesuit Preparatory
“It is important to have campaigns like this because it allows students to become aware of the hardships others face around the world. It allows them to understand how fortunate they are. These campaigns give students a world view and pop the bubbles that some may be living in. It gives students the true meaning of becoming men and women for others.” Maryellen Doino, School Counselor
The Student Government was responsible for taking the ‘La Silla Roja’ campaign to all homerooms at Brooklyn Jesuit Prep. Students reflected on the importance of access to education shared their thoughts in open discussions as well as organized a dress-down day to support Fe y Alegría.
Safaira Kelly, 8th grader, Student Government President
“This is important because everyone deserves an education”
Gervais Gors, 7th Grade, Student Government Representative
“It was important to learn this because it shows that we should be grateful that we have school because others might not be able to go to school and they can’t achieve what their parents want them to or what their parents couldn’t”
Students took part in contributing to solving the dual challenge we face as a society of (1) fulfilling the promise to ensure the right to quality education for every child, youth, and adult and (2) realizing the transformational potential of education as a means to achieve sustainable societies.
Students changed the course and transformed their educational experiences. Each group was able to see education in a different light and through a different lens. Most importantly, not just education, but the role they can collectively and individually take in collaborating in the creation of a society in which all can access this basic right.