Beginning in March, the Schlegel Center for Service and Justice has pivoted their pro- gramming from in-person to virtual in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The SCSJ has continued virtual community engagement through tutoring, mentoring and letter writing. These virtual opportunities will be expanded this fall with over 130 Creighton students mentoring high school and elementary students, tutoring immigrant and refugee high school students and learning about the criminal justice system.
The SCSJ is also continuing to provide social justice education and Ignatian advocacy opportunities by virtually meeting with four members of congress about key issues sup- ported by the Jesuit Conference.
In addition to this, the SCSJ has held space for reflection and community online, just as they would in-person.
“It’s the same mission, just a different delivery” Ken Reed-Bouley, Director of the Schlegel Center for Service and Justice said. “We’re really excited by the new and creative ways that we will be able to connect people on campus with our community partners here in Omaha and across the county.”
According to Kelly Tadeo Orbik, Associate Director of the SCSJ, one virtual program that the SCSJ is offering is inspired by, and builds on, the 37-year legacy of the Service & Justice Trips program.
“These Service & Justice Trip Virtual Weekend Experiences will allow participants to dive into issues of migration justice and racial justice with community partners who have hosted students for years,” Tadeo Orbik said.
Reed-Bouley said that one of the highlight experiences of the Montgomery Service & Justice Trip is a dinner with Civil Rights activists who have been fighting for racial justice for years. “It’s so powerful for the nine students a semester who get to hear these living legends talk. This year, though, all the participants of our racial justice weekend will get to hear their stories, including MLK’s barber who is now an historian. It’s exciting to be able to offer that opportunity to students, faculty, staff, and alumni,” Reed-Bouley said.
The SCSJ recpgnizes that responding to the public health emergency and its impact on Creighton and the Omaha community has certainly brought its challenges. “We were able to leverage virtual tools and creativity to stay connected to our students and community part- ners while continuing to achieve our mission in this difficult time. We are very aware of the need to raise awareness and support for many community partners and the families they serve who are struggling,” Tadeo Orbik said.
Resurrection Catholic Missions is a Service & Justice Trip host partner in Montgomery, AL.
which hosts the Interfaith Community Out- reach initiative, serving low-income senior cit- izens. Seniors are used to having consistent vis- itors, but the circumstances have changed with the pandemic. In response, the Creighton community has been sending handwritten letters through the SCSJ’s “Serve From Anywhere” letter writing project, offering hope and connection across physical distancing. 60 students matched with all 41 seniors have sent over 160 letters.
Over 105 students, faculty, staff and alum- ni have joined in “Streaming Social Justice,” which provides discussion groups after watch- ing films or episodes available online such as Disney Plus films “Coco” and “Frozen 2,” Netflix film “13th” and series “Living Undocumented.”
In response to the current climate of racial injustice around the world and in the Creigh- ton community, the SCSJ has facilitated more than 150 students, faculty, staff and alumni as they read and discuss “How to be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi. Tadeo Orbik said this program has been very successful with the partnership of the Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion and Creighton Intercultural Center.
The SCSJ is also partnering with Student Leadership and Involvement Center to promote civic engagement through voting this fall.
Brianna Dufault, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences said that being able to continue connections and conversations virtually through the SCSJ has been comforting to her through this time when she and her peers have not been able to have such powerful con- versations face-to-face. “Participating in such thoughtful conversations helped me to rest my thoughts on other topics and prioritize what was important for me to focus on,” Dufault said. “Engaging in the virtual discussion groups surrounding the “Living Undocumented” and “13th” documentaries has been a great way for me to meet other people with open minds and diverse perspectives, which has ultimately pushed me to think critically about many social justice topics.”