BY CHRIS KERR | November 13, 2015
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Thursday, Nov. 12, marked the third annual “National Educators Coming Out” Day, a project of the United We Dream Network’s (UWD) Dream Educational Empowerment Program, to create a national network of educators committed to support and work alongside undocumented students.
More than 1,600 individuals, including over 100 Jesuit college and university faculty and administrators made the pledge including staff at Loyola University Chicago and Saint Peter’s University, and Saint Peter’s University president Eugene J. Cornacchia, Ph.D. Those making the pledge shared selfies with their pledge, which took over social media on Thursday, educating and inspiring many more.
“For undocumented students, coming out as undocumented and unafraid means many things. It could mean the growth of a support system or further discrimination and violence. Now United We Dream has been asking educators to come out in support of immigrant youth, and the responses we’ve seen from across the country are overwhelming,” said Laura Bohorquez, United We Dream’s Dream Educational Empowerment Program Coordinator and graduate of Loyola University Chicago. Bohorquez continued, “We’ve seen the difference a support system can have on a student, when they feel that can go to their teachers for guidance on navigating a difficult educational system. And this is what today is all about. It’s a day to celebrate all the educators and administrators who already support their undocumented students and to encourage others to join us, sign the pledge, take a picture and make their support public.”
Across the country, educators face barriers to providing high quality education to their undocumented students. United We Dream and their allies, including the Ignatian Solidarity Network, are committed to bringing those barriers down and promoting a culture of support on campuses for those who support undocumented students. “Supporting undocumented students seeking higher education is a core part of advocating for humane immigration reform,” said Christopher Kerr, Ignatian Solidarity Network executive director. “We must stand with those in our communities as we advocate for the dignity of all those challenged by our country’s current immigration reality.”
National Educators Coming Out Day is part of United We Dream’s effort to make concrete changes in the field of education to support students. It precedes their annual National Institutions Coming Out Day where last May 80 campuses changed policies to better support students.
Just two weeks ago, the U.S. Department of Education released a resource guide for educators with materials from UWD, this week Mary Kathryn Ricker, the executive vice president of the American Federation of Teachers, released an English and Spanish language op-ed encouraging support undocumented students. The “Coming Out Day” was also featured on Univision.
Chris joined the Ignatian Solidarity Network (ISN) as executive director in 2011. He has over fifteen years of experience in social justice advocacy and leadership in Catholic education and ministry. Prior to ISN he served in multiple roles at John Carroll University, including coordinating international immersion experience and social justice education programming as an inaugural co-director of John Carroll’s Arrupe Scholars Program for Social Action. Prior to his time at John Carroll he served as a teacher and administrator at the elementary and secondary levels in Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. Chris speaks regularly at campuses and parishes about social justice education and advocacy, Jesuit mission, and a broad range of social justice issues. He currently serves on the board of directors for Christians for Peace in El Salvador (CRISPAZ). Chris earned a B.A. and M.A. from John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio. He and his family reside in Shaker Heights, Ohio.