SPOKANE, Wash. – A group of Gonzaga Preparatory School students made their way to New Orleans Monday morning for two once in a lifetime experiences: Engaging with social justice issues and meeting one of the school's most famous alumni.
Thirty students made the trip as part of the school’s Margins program. Eleven are traveling to New Orleans, and the rest are flying to either San Francisco or Los Angeles. The trip is an opportunity for students to immerse themselves in economic, environmental and criminal justice issues, and build connections with the people who experience them.
Students will spend 7 days in New Orleans before coming back to Spokane to share what they learned. While in New Orleans, the students will also meet Steve Gleason.
Gleason is a former Gonzaga Prep football star who spent eight years playing for the New Orleans Saints in the NFL. Now he is an advocate for ALS patients after being diagnosed with the disease in 2011. Gleason will educate students about how technology improves ALS patients’ lives.
KREM 2 plans to obtain video from the visiit.
Th students have been studying fundamental human rights, social identify, mass incarceration and the current climate crisis for months.
“We meet with folks who are doing the work and folks who are experiencing these injustices in really authentic and meaningful ways and we try to understand them, to make sense of people’s experiences. And what does it mean for us to walk with them and advocate for them and to eradicate those problems?” Tyler Hobbs, Christian Service director at Gonzaga Prep, said.
This will be the second year of the program and the second time Hobbs will see students immerse themselves in these issues over spring break.
“There are unexpected moments of human encounter on these trips where you build relationships with sometimes the most unexpected people, be that someone who was a gang member, or somebody who is currently incarcerated or someone who is experiencing homelessness or someone who is an activist in their field,” Hobbs added.
Sophomore Xzandre Jean-Francois is ready to listen.
“You always hear about like the negative sides but you never really hear directly from other people about what their situation is like, you don't really know what caused them to get into that situation,” he said. “It helps you think before you do something out in public, it helps you not jump to conclusions about other people and not like judge them, it helps you to also be more excepting of others.”
Senior Donna Finger said the trip holds the answers to her many questions.
“I just really want to do something in the world, like I just have kind of like that drive like there's so many issues, so many problems and like I just want to know, You know, if there is anything we can do about it because sometimes, I go home from school and I'm just like, I never got my questions answered,” she said.
Sophomore Daisy Dai also realizes that the trip is an invaluable experience.
“This is not something that I will likely experience again in my future life. I’m excited to meet all these other people and just to be humbled by their experience and wisdom,” Dai said.
Hobbs said the trip is full of unpredictability and growth.
“It's often surprising and in some ways unpredictable what's going to touch the heart of a student, what's going to be that thing that pushes them out of their comfort zone and into that place of compassion or action,” he said. “The hope is that students walk away from these trips with a lot of questions but also with a heart on fire and so that they feel empowered to make reasonable, significant, informed change when they come back.”