The Social Justice visits are a new and improved version of the past Urban Plunges in which the 11th grade Theology classes participate. The purpose of these visits is for students to get the opportunity to see different impactful social justice work places around the greater Cleveland area. Students find places they may potentially be interested in for their Praxis project. Praxis carries on throughout the second semester in Theology classes. This project is completed in groups where the students will have to write papers, complete a service project, conduct interviews, and present a video final at the end.
Ms. Brianna Lazarchik, an 11th grade Theology teacher related a broad range of topics surrounding the Social justice visits and what they will bring to the students. These visits are different from the past Urban Plunges as prior years there were only three visits per year and were completed during Karios trips. The Academy reconstructed the Urban Plunge so this year all of the visits happened in January. They intentionally did this so it could be incorporated in the social justice unit. The new change helps to ensure that each student has the opportunity to visit four different sites.
Ms. Lazarchik said, “We visit a variety of sites near Gilmour and also downtown, including Bellfaire JCB, Beech Brook, the West Side Catholic Center, Malachi House, and Catholic Charities Migration & Refugee Services.”
The informative visits give students an overview of what the organizations do. The organizations were selected because they each are familiar with programming for high schoolers. This makes it easy for planners to put together interesting and informative 45 minute sessions for students to get an idea of what they are looking to do and if it would interest them for their project.
Planners also partner with organizations that they have worked with in the past. Students during the second semester of Theology 11 learn about the Catholic Church’s teachings on social justice through Scripture and Tradition like Papal letters, encyclicals, and the catechism.
Ms. Lazarchik said, “Our time in the classroom is mainly spent understanding the theological foundations of this work and the church teachings on some of the major injustices that affect the global community. By visiting these sites, students get to see the church teachings in action. Learning specific stories about social justice work brings the key principles of Catholic Social Teaching to life in ways that create and build upon meaningful human connection.”
The goal for these introductory trips is for students to find interest in the different organizations. Ms. Lazarchik said, “I hope students will feel inspired by the amazing work that goes around all over our city, see the many individuals who are able to provide perspectives for their Praxis project, and see that social justice is a living, breathing value of the city of Cleveland and not just something we read about in books.”