BY KIM MILLER | August 21, 2012
As Gonzaga University students return to campus this week, they’ll notice a new option in the bookstore for wearing their Zag pride. Gonzaga has joined the company of over twenty other Jesuit universities in deciding to sell living-wage produced Alta Gracia apparel.
According to the Alta Gracia website, it is “the only apparel brand of its kind. Proudly made in the Dominican Republic and sold in over 600 college campuses nationwide.” Their product is unique because they follow strict labor principles including “paying a living wage to every worker—more than three times the standard industry wage and enough to make sure that workers can feed, clothe, house, and educate their families.”
The force behind Gonzaga’s decision to provide a living wage clothing option was Monsieree de Castro, a current Gonzaga junior studying International Relations. She shares, “I first heard about Alta Gracia at the Ignatian Family Teach-In last year. I thought it was awesome, and I realized that it was something pretty necessary for Gonzaga to have as a Jesuit university.”
De Castro, joined by her fellow ISN University Leadership Summit Alums Molly Mcnulty (ISN campus rep for Gonzaga U) and Kaeli Joyce, immediately set off to bring the apparel company to campus. According to De Castro, the process was straightforward: “We just sent a few emails to Gonzaga administration, and they were really receptive to it. We didn’t really hit any roadblocks aside from the bookstore changing ownership in the middle of the process; that slowed us down a bit.”
Along the way, the women encountered the most challenges their student peers. “For us it’s important to have something like Alta Gracia as an apparel option on our campus because we’re so well supported by Nike at our school. People told us, ‘You can’t take Nike down!’ But we assured them that we’re not trying to take Nike down. We’re just trying to provide students with an alternative to Nike at the bookstore so that they can make the socially just choice that will actually benefit peoples’ lives,” stated De Castro.
When asked if she had advice for other students who want to bring Alta Gracia to their bookstores, De Castro reflected over the process and offered a few words of encouragement: “When I first thought about it, I thought, ‘This is going to be so hard. How will I get this to happen?’ But, if you really believe in it, keep fighting for it! Don’t take no for an answer!”
Kim Miller is the Program Director for the Ignatian Solidarity Network.