Preparing Your Delegation
As with any educational social justice experience, the strength of the lesson is related to the preparation that comes before it and the way the lesson is carried on afterward. The Teach-In experience can be hectic, condensed, and intense, and information will be presented to students rapidly with few breaks. While this provides for a very rewarding experience, it is highly suggested that you prepare your participants and delegates beforehand. Laying a strong foundation of knowledge prior to the Teach-In will strongly enhance participants’ experiences throughout the weekend and during Ignatian Family Advocacy Month.
How often should the group meet? We recommend that groups meet at least twice for 60-90 minutes. Many delegations have also had success with shorter, 45-60 minute weekly meetings throughout the fall.
Are there any recommended resources? The IFTJ is rooted in the witness of the Jesuit martyrs of El Salvador and their companions, and they will be referenced at multiple points throughout the conference. Providing attendees with background on the Jesuit martyrs and some history of the IFTJ is a good starting point for delegation preparation. You may consider this basic IFTJ Context and History Handout or see below for additional resources.
Best Practices & Resources from IFTJ Delegations
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Tips from Colleges:
The IFTJ students from WJU are sponsored by our Justice and Peace student group. This both helps with funding and with recruitment. The students are involved in the process of reaching out to representatives so that the students know how to be part of that process as well. Student leaders help us select which politicians to reach out to for advocacy day. We have an information session led by university staff to give the students background information for advocacy meetings before the IFTJ weekend. As a WJU delegation, together we work with the student leaders to put together our asking points etc. before we attend the IFTJ. Preparing for advocacy before has been helpful in that we are not rushing the night before trying to do research, form groups and put it together our presentations. It also helps students new to the process to not be nervous.
Wheeling Jesuit University
One of the best preparation meetings we have had was held in our Jesuit residence. We watched a film about the Jesuits in El Salvador with the Jesuits on our campus. They had some snacks for us while we debriefed together. I think this was a very powerful collaboration between the past and future. The Jesuits talked about their own work in the city of Buffalo and how they incorporate justice into their lives now.
1) Using CST as a shared vocabulary for students to use in the legislative visits.
2) Doing the Why Web exercise both with the issues students were advocating on to help them see connections to other areas of life and assist in cultivating talking points.
Loyola University Chicago
We have information meetings, a day long retreat (see resources), a logistics meeting, a prayer send off service and a reunion. We also participate in IFAM each February
Tips from High Schools:
We watch “Advocacy 101” videos, videos on what happens during a lobby meeting, how to prepare a testimony; We meet 4 times prior to the Teach-In and do “mock” lobby meetings; We also prepare our students by watching videos on the martyrs, so they have a better understanding on the origins of the Teach-In. Since we are not a Jesuit school, it is important that we educate them on this background.
Presentation High School
We have three pre-trip meetings. In meeting #1 the students explain why they want to go. We go over the format of the weekend, do a history of the Teach-in, check the website for schedule and breakouts, briefly review the advocacy issues to be addressed. Homework is to check out the website, get familiar with the issues, and choose breakout sessions with a partner. We also collect student cell phone numbers. In session #2 we go over school rules for the trip and provide flight information. Students choose breakout sessions and discuss why. Homework is to develop questions for the advocacy day. In session #3 we cover details of advocacy day and discuss the issues. We review departure details. We celebrate Mass for the group the day before departure.
Boston College High School
We use two prep meetings to ensure that all students know the history of the UCA martyrs, as well as the details of the policy area we are advocating for and the position history of the congressman we are meeting. They need to understand the SOA and the martyrs to appreciate the history of the event and some of the prayer traditions of the teach-in. They also need to understand the specifics of the policy or else the congressional appointment is a waste of time as the staffers/congressman generally know what they are talking about and won’t seriously consider the opinions of the uninformed.
1. We have students apply to go and the Teach is only open to Juniors and Seniors. This ensures a certain level of maturity and background knowledge.
2. Seniors who went to the Teach-In as Juniors are asked to apply to be leaders and with our help lead all preparation meetings.
3. We have 5 prep meetings(required) prior to departure. Students are organized into issue groups and congressional groups. This ensures that at each congressional meeting there are “experts” on each issue present.
4. Prep meetings focus on preparing “leave behinds”. We start with what ISN provides but we make it relevant to Oregon/Portland’s context. The “leave behinds” are not finalized until the Sunday night of the Teach-In (day before congressional meetings).
5. We do at least two “mock” congressional meetings before we depart for D.C.
6.There is at least one Senior leader in each congressional visit group who is responsible for facilitating the meeting. Adults are observers only. This is student run.
7.Upon return, we ask students to plan follow-up events on campus to bring the Teach-In home. This year students focused on trying to combat Islamaphobia and race dialogues.
Jesuit High School – Portland
Prior to the Teach-In, we made an intentional effort to invite students from different parts of the school who are involved in our various justice groups (diversity, Pax Christi, gender equality, environmental justice) to have a diverse group. We also gathered with our group twice prior to the trip. The first meeting was a dinner with icebreakers and a chance to talk about why each person signed up to go, as well as to talk details about the trip itself and give an overview for the weekend.
We also worked with Saint Louis University about a week prior to learn more about the issues we were going to advocate for, and our students were able to watch the college students practice their advocacy pitches – this was great experience for them.
St. Louis University High School
2-3 Pre trip meetings covering the question, “Why are so many Jesuit HS and University students gathering, and what has been US policy in Central America?
– Enemies of War video shows the highlights leading up to the Jesuit martyrs deaths
– This video of Dean Brackley, S.J. highlights the impact Jesuits had on El Salvador:
– Killed in El Salvador | An American Story video shows the impacts on religious women also killed in El Salvador
Arrive to Washington 1-2 early: “What does (in)justice look like in DC?”
– Walking tour of DC Memorials (Arlington Cemetery, Lincoln Memorial, and MLK, Jr. Memorial) and read RFK speech on MLK, Jr’s assassination at Arlington, read MLK’s acceptance speech at Lincoln Memorial, and read an “excerpt from a Report to the American People on Civil Rights, 11 June 1963” at MLK Memorial.
– Visit the Holocaust Museum and asking students where/how they see injustice continuing today?
Bellarmine Preparatory School
We review and use Pope Francis’ statements on immigration and integrate those into our own discussions and presentations. We also take the theme of the conference and ask how do we live it in our work and how best can we share that with others when we are at the conference.
Kino Border Initiative
We only completed our first year this past November. We showed two videos in our prep meetings: Blood in the Backyard and How Did the Teach-In Begin?. We don’t have the Ignatian influence in our school, so I hope to include more history behind the martyrs next year. We reached out to our congresswoman early and booked a tour of her office and an appointment with her for Advocacy Day. They sent over helpful travel tips about DC on where to eat, what to see, etc.
Junipero Serra High School