By: Catie Cheshire, Co-Editor in Chief
As part of social justice week, students who attended the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice (IFTJ) in Washington D.C. November 3-5 shared reflections on their experience and plans for future action in an event called “IFTJ, Action, and Healing.” Not everyone who went on the trip participated in the event, but it began with those who did (Natalie Nielsen, Anahi Ramos, Ethan Strouse, Amelia Rouyer, and Kate Penick) sharing memorable moments are lessons learned.
The conference is two days of breakout speakers and advocacy training with a focus on the Jesuit values that can influence how we discuss policy with our elected representatives. The final day of the conference is devoted to meeting with policy aides on the hill and using the advocacy skills learned at the conference. The theme of this year’s conference was Discipleship at the Crossroads.
“The community of Jesuit schools was impressive to me,” Penick said. “The common background we all come from was special throughout the weekend.” Strouse seconded her thoughts with a comedic story about the “mass Mass” that took place Sunday evening on the second day of the conference. That many people from Jesuit educational backgrounds coming together is something unique about ITFJ that Regis students felt defined the conference.
Despite the fact that every breakout session or keynote relates social justice issues back to Jesuit values, Ramos stressed the variety of topics available for conference-goers to pick from. Ramos has gone to IFTJ twice now, and said that this time around she was able to learn about different subjects than she had before. She also stressed that advocacy isn’t nearly as intimidating as she thought.
“The nerves disappear once you’re in the conversation and can share your stories and views and be heard by people who have a say,” Ramos said. For Nielsen, who has attended IFTJ three times and was the student leader of the trip this year, her growth within advocacy from year one to year three of IFTJ has encouraged her to consider a career in politics after she graduates from Regis.
Nielsen used her third year as a chance to learn from others. She expressed that, for her, a lot of the experience was listening to what others are doing and trying to figure out how to bring that back to Regis.
For that reason, the second half of the event focused on actions. The participants shared DOs and DON’Ts for advocacy, and introduced a new event that will take place at Regis in the Spring: Advocacy Day. During Anti-Oppression Week one day will involved Regis students lobbying on Capitol Hill here in Denver.
The other action was participants at the even writing letters to Casa de Paz, an organization that provides support for people whose family members are detained or are coming out of detention centers. Casa de Paz is a local organization that has helped over 1,000 families and counting. The letters were written to express solidarity for people unjustly held in detention and will be delivered to families soon.