BY ISN STAFF | April 15, 2021
In late February of 2021, the Ignatian Solidarity Network hosted its first virtual Arrupe Leaders Summits for high school students attending Jesuit and other Catholic schools across the U.S.
Held annually, Arrupe Leaders Summits invite emerging student leaders to deepen their understanding of “a faith that does justice,” share ideas and resources for social justice programming, and become empowered to effect positive social change in their local and global communities.
The 2021 summits welcomed more than 110 students and 30 faculty and staff chaperones from 18 schools in California, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, D.C., and Wisconsin.
“[The Summit] really opened my eyes to new perspectives from around the country,” shared Nicolas Diaz, a student at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago, Illinois. “It showed me that even though we were from different states we all experience the same issues and I made friends while talking about these issues.”
Each summit was held over two days and was highly interactive, featuring speakers, student discussion, idea sharing, and networking opportunities. Jimmy Menkhaus, the opening keynote, spoke with students about Fr. Pedro Arrupe’s conversation story, when his eyes were opened to his vocation to work for justice for those on the margins of society. Menkhaus then invited students, using Zoom’s gallery view, to share their own experiences of conversion, opening the summits with a very powerful, personal encounter between attendees.
In contrast to in-person summits, which are typically held on the east and west coasts as well as a midwest location, this year’s virtual experience allowed students from diverse contexts across the country to interact with one another. Discussion was student-led in Zoom breakout rooms, allowing for depth and attendee-guided conversation.
“The Arrupe Leaders Summit was a two day event full of surprises that helped me gain more knowledge on how to become a better leader. It helped me understand in more depth that it is okay that I am different, being different is being unique,” explained Isbeth Bustos, also a student at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago. “I got to meet more people who are just like me, looking for a better future and greater opportunities for the future generations. We’re all trying to make the world a better place.”
Creativity was a key component of each summit. José Arnulfo Cabrera, ISN’s director of education and advocacy for migration, led a storytelling workshop, encouraging students to experiment with telling their stories in non-traditional ways. Action plan sharing also brought out student creativity, including a rap to share a food waste reduction project—a prominent justice issue for students at both summits.
While students were in sessions, faculty and staff chaperones were also invited into sessions led by Brenna Davis, ISN’s director of Education for Justice and environmental initiatives, and Christopher Kerr, ISN’s executive director. Discussion centered around Pope Francis’ encyclical Fratelli Tutti, on the concept of solidarity. Attendees were invited to reflect on what social justice and solidarity mean in their school contexts, particularly around challenging unjust structures and student formation.