Archbishop Mitty High School stands out as a leader in Catholic education, and one of the most unique opportunities is its Immersion Program. Administrated through the Campus Ministry Department, the Immersion Program organizes over more than a dozen service-learning trips a year, both domestic and abroad, with the goal of sending students, faculty, and staff into diverse communities to follow the example of Jesus, reaching out to the poor and marginalized in His society. Two hundred and twenty-five students participated in these trips this summer, and the program has grown substantially over the past decade.
Campus Ministry Associate and faculty member Kristy Calaway led 25 students and four adult chaperones to India. The group returned at the end of July, and she wrote of the experience.
On the last day of a two-week immersion trip to India, I asked the students and adult chaperones to reflect on what story they would share from their India experience upon returning to the United States. As the students told their stories–some sad, others hilarious, and still others heartwarming–I realized how fortunate I am to be able to take students on this life-changing trip. Each day of the trip was full of adventures that allow the students to examine the ethical issues that India faces.
While visiting Agra, the home of the Taj Mahal, we had a glimpse of the world that exists outside the opulent mausoleum. We ate lunch at the Sheroes Hangout Cafe. The women who run the cafe are all survivors of acid attacks. As we listened to tragic stories of domestic violence, the dominant theme was not what any of us expected. Each woman focused on how this cafe had provided her with a community that allowed her not only to survive but thrive. The women told unimaginable stories of love and hope. We then used the inspiration we found at the cafe to strengthen us as we visited a Missionaries of Charity orphanage. As some students held babies for the first time, they finally understood how easy it is to fall in love with the poor and forgotten of our world.
Students at Archbishop Mitty are taught that all people–no matter their age, ethnicity, religion, or socioeconomic background–are created in the image and likeness of God. Our immersion trips allow students the opportunity to understand what this statement means. This year students traveled to China, South Africa, El Salvador, and Jamaica where they learned how globalization, migration, HIV/AIDS, and gang activity affect local communities. Students also visited communities closer to home to work with some of the most vulnerable members of our society. Whether they volunteer with St. Anthony’s Foundation in San Francisco, work alongside migrants in the fields of Salinas, visit Dolores Mission and Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, build homes with Habitat for Humanity in Oregon, or learn about rural poverty in the Appalachian region, our students develop a deep passion for the social justice that Jesus calls for in the Gospel.
For more information on the Campus Ministry Program, visit: www.mitty.com/campus-ministry/immersion-programs.