Archbishop Mitty Class Focuses on Poverty, Social Justice;
Students Take Classroom Lessons to Appalachia
More than 25 students from Archbishop Mitty High School traveled the backroads of West Virginia this summer, where they learned about poverty, protecting the environment, and social justice.
The students were part of a new class that spent a year learning about the Appalachian region before traveling there to serve. The course is the newest in a group of six courses that let Archbishop Mitty juniors study and explore Catholic social teachings and apply them to an area of the world.
West Virginia has some of the highest poverty rates in the nation. Students started the trip by serving at a soup kitchen, working at an urban farm, and helping a nonprofit that assists with disaster relief.
“It doesn’t matter if you live in San Jose, India, or Appalachia,” said Lauren Matusich, the teacher who led the class. “Poverty is poverty.”
The class also focuses on environmental justice. West Virginia is rich in resources such as coal, natural gas and timber. The region is one of the most biodiverse areas in the world. But heavy mining for coal, fracking for natural gas and a large demand for lumber have left much of the land devastated and prone to natural disasters, such as flooding.
A conversation with Photographer Paul Corbit Brown, who grew up in West Virginia, proved particularly meaningful. As he walked up a protected mountain, he talked with students about the web of life. Then, they rounded a corner and saw vast areas where mountain tops had been removed, so that coal could be extracted.
“It makes you want to cry,” Matusich said. “And the kids, they don’t say a lot. It gets really quiet.”
During the trip, students gathered at Wheeling Jesuit University to reflect on their journey. Before leaving, students developed plans to bring awareness to the issues facing the environment and people in the Appalachian region, after they return home.
Archbishop Mitty High School will host 11 immersion trips this year, where students will learn about another culture and reach out to the poor and marginalized during their summer and Easter breaks. For more information about these trips, visit the Archbishop Mitty Campus Ministry website: mitty.com/campus-ministry/immersion-programs.
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