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CCSJ launches peer-led cohort program to engage students around social justice issues

| By Hope Pinsonault
Alumni Memorial Chapel

Loyola’s Center for Community, Service, and Justice (CCSJ) has launched the peer-led cohort program, Bmore Engaged, a program designed to support students in their progression from learning to action when addressing social justice issues.

During the Spring 2021 semester, 53 students have registered to dive into social justice issues including race and racism, immigration/migration, education/youth development, food access, workforce and employment, civic engagement, and environmental justice. 

The program, which is 10 weeks long, offers bi-weekly personal learning exercises with alternating bi-weekly facilitated Zoom cohort sessions. During personal learning activities, students learn by reading articles; listening to podcasts; and watching videos that can help educate them on social justice topics.

Participants also challenge themselves to expand knowledge by having conversations with those who hold similar and differing perspectives; reflect on topics through prayer or a new spiritual practice; demand changes in legislation through petitions and action alerts; and develop a creative expression that demonstrates your commitment to the social justice issue. Throughout the personal learning activities participants are often encouraged to self-reflect through activities such as journaling. These self-reflection activities are important as they get to the heart of CCSJ’s work. 

“Bmore Engaged is important as it supports students’ progression from learning to action, particularly during a time where in-person engagement is limited due to COVID,” says Pat Cassidy, assistant director of the Center for Community, Service, and Justice. “Opportunities for learning and engagement in social change efforts are critical during times like these, and we wanted to be sure to offer students ways to stay engaged in CCSJ/YRI & Loyola’s mission. As participants dive into their learning, it becomes clear that race and racism are the root of many of these justice topics. Without understanding and centering race in this work, we miss the foundational reason these inequities exist in policies and practices that are present in our city, our state, and our nation. Through their participation in Bmore Engaged, students come to better understand their positionality in relation to the issue and how they can wield their power—individually and collectively—to create impact and change.”

The program is made up of four main components: head, heart, spirit, and hands. These elements derive directly from the Ignatian pedagogy elements of context, experience, reflection, action, and evaluation. In this way, students are encouraged to acknowledge how their identities shape their perspective on the topic (head); associate learning with relationships and encounters to those who share similar and different ideas than oneself (heart); reflect through prayer, journaling, creative modalities, and meditation (spirit); and to form a plan of action (hands).

Students gathered for the first Bmore Engaged session of the semester on Feb. 8, 2021, via Zoom. This semester’s work builds on the work that began in the fall of 2020, when Bmore Engaged launched with the goal of keeping students engaged by cultivating a sense of community while students were learning and participating remotely. 

“It was great to hear how other people took action and plan to take action because it has informed and inspired me to act differently and look towards initiatives that I never previously thought of,” said Carolyn Thaney, ’22, a Bmore Engaged participant.

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