BY ISN STAFF | June 12, 2019
On April 8, 2019, Cristo Rey New York High School (CRNYHS) students participated in their first Ignatian Social Justice Tournament, an annual event involving Jesuit high schools across and beyond New York City, successfully securing the $30,000 grand prize for a local non-profit.
During the tournament, student representatives from each school give a presentation on why their charity of choice is deserving of the grand prize. CRNYHS’ social justice club chose LSA Family Health Service, a non-profit that works to provide healthcare and education for families living in poverty in East Harlem. LSA is a CRNYHS corporate work study partner, and many students have built close relationships with the organization.
LSA is a non-profit organization founded in 1958 by the Little Sisters of the Assumption who have been working in New York since the 1890s. The organization provides social services and education primarily to families living in East Harlem project housing. The organization’s primary programs focus on healthcare—specifically home health care and pre- and post-natal services—and services for families with a focus on children from birth through third grade.
Five representatives from the classes of 2019 and 2020 presented at the tournament, impressing judges. Students spoke about how the partnership with the organization grew their “drive to help out the needy and vulnerable,” and how working with LSA inspired them to “be a better person,” not only for themselves, but for their community.
After hearing from five other schools in the region, judges unanimously voted for CRNYHS to receive the first place prize for LSA to help to fund a culturally responsive after-school program for underserved students in East Harlem.
“We were very excited because Cristo Rey works with a lot of nonprofit organizations, and we do a lot of community service through our christian service project. So we were excited to advocate for an organization in our community,” junior Leslie Hernandez said in an interview with the Harlem Patch.
In the interview, students on CRNYHS’ team shared that the competition reinforced public speaking skills and time management, both in the development of their final presentation and in balancing normal school work in the time leading to the tournament.
“What I take away from this whole experience is me knowing that I was able to help an organization. People are always looking for ways to help others, especially me,” said junior Noelia Garcia in the interview. “I love to do community service. But this is a very big thing — I never thought I’d be able to provide an organization with so much money.”
“This experience proved to our students how capable they are,” shared Joseph McQuarrie, teacher and campus ministry at CRNYHS and moderator of the school’s Social Justice League. “Even though we’re a small school, winning the tournament proved that if they work hard enough they can not only hang with anyone but surpass any expectations; that even though they’re young, the work and passion they convey can make an enormous impact.”