The sole focus of Jesuit education has never been academic excellence alone. Rather, combining academic prowess with action — especially in service to others less fortunate — is the goal. Merging academic achievement with this broader sense of service helps shape students who meet the criteria of the Graduate at Graduation. The COVID-19 pandemic limited some of St. Xavier High School’s best service opportunities: its mission trips and exchange programs.
As a result, I started a Fe y Alegría club and a big brother tutoring program for St. Xavier Advanced Placement Spanish Language and Culture students during the summer of 2021. The tutoring program featured virtual instructional sessions via Microsoft Teams. AP candidates were paired with Peruvian grade-school students from the Jesuit Fe y Alegría School #81 in the small, rural town of Paita in northern Peru. The Peruvian students were identified by their teachers as individuals who could benefit academically from specialized attention.
The AP candidates experienced their course content through real-world civic engagement. The personal one-on-one service-learning approach enabled them to develop new skills, including knowledge and understanding of third-world realities and the impact of COVID-19 on the poor. They enhanced academic skills like Spanish vocabulary, conversation, cultural understanding and interpersonal connections. They applied the Spanish language and Latin American cultural knowledge they acquired in their coursework to local and global realities through innovation, creativity and critical thinking.
Jesuit Superior General Arturo Sosa said, “The universal apostolic preferences are a call to conversion. They are an invitation to rethink how we live, how we work and how we relate to the people we serve.” We Jesuit educators are called to build the connections that put those expectations for its students into practice.
For information on forming a Fe y Alegría Club, contact Patty Luehrmann at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message in the comment box below.
This article was originally shared in JSN Hemispheres March 2022