Jesuit Refugee Service/USA Outreach Coordinator Mary Doan speaks with students at Christ the King Prep in Newark, N.J. (Jesuit Refugee Service)
(Washington, D.C.) November 24, 2014 — Earlier this month, Jesuit Refugee Service/USA Outreach Coordinator Mary Doan visited high schools in the New York metropolitan area. The visits were part of an annual effort to bring awareness of refugee and displacement issues to students across the country, while also encouraging students to take action on their campuses next spring.
As the fall semester comes to a close, Mary Doan — a member of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps working with JRS/USA on a year-long placement — visited students at Cristo Rey Brooklyn, Xavier High School, and Christ the King Jesuit High and gave presentations in theology and student government classes.
Cristo Rey Brooklyn's Dean of Student Enrichment was eager to have their student government leaders start a social justice club at their school to further spread awareness of refugee issues. They also plan to hold a music concert fundraiser that will highlight music from countries with a refugee population.
At Xavier High School in Manhattan, Mary had the opportunity to present to senior theology students and exposed them to social justice. The outreach presentation was a nice introduction to social justice as these students will take a social justice class next semester, and some of them will have their senior project on refugees.
Christ the King Jesuit High School students in Newark, New Jersey, were quite engaged and asked a variety of questions during the presentation. Many of the students were shocked to learn about some of the statistical data on refugees like the average time a person spends in a refugee camp. Overall, students became more aware of the plight of refugees.
A visit by a JRS/USA representative is the first step to encourage continued involvement with these issues. In the coming months, a potential follow up visit could take place to ensure the momentum of the students’ involvement with refugee and displacement issues.
The goal of the JRS/USA Outreach Program is for students to take action. This action can include creating a space where they can engage in prayer, accompanying a country/people in need — learning more about them by exploring our website, and for service through educating their peers. In addition, we encourage students to seek solidarity with refugees and other forcibly displaced people by raising funds to assist in our work. By starting out small, JRS/USA hopes that students will eventually use their newfound knowledge to advocate about these issues by speaking up to their elected officials.
In the coming months, Mary will travel to Baltimore and Fr. Kevin White, S.J., the JRS/USA Mission and Identity Coordinator, will be in the San Francisco Bay Area. For more information on hosting a JRS/USA representative or hosting an event, please contact the Outreach Coordinator.