Students spread social justice through forum

By Megan Bernatavitz
February 5, 2009

Promoting peace and awareness was what students from different universities had in mind on Thursday evening, Jan. 29. Approximately 50 students from four colleges and universities met to exchange ideas about social justice programs they participate in.

“Tonight we have two goals in mind: get to know each other and sign up for ways to get involved within the social justice program,” Jessica Zawrotny, senior psychology major and main organizer of the event, said.

The Catholic Relief Services ambassadors forum held in Grace Hall was filled with students from Cabrini College, Villanova University, Neumann College and Eastern University. Students sat around a horseshoe-shaped table and each got up and spoke about what issues were most important to them.

They then received feedback on how to get others involved and whom to get in contact with. Each college expressed appreciation for the work done by students at other schools.

Chris Cantwell, junior history and education major, said, “The forum is a good chance for local schools to share in successful activism opportunities that they have taken part in.”

Catholic Relief Services, founded in 1943, is the official overseas relief and development agency of U.S. Catholics. Its focus is on peace-building, agriculture, education, HIV/AIDS, food security and other issues. The CRS mission is to assist impoverished countries through Catholic Social Teaching.

“Whether it’s through speakers or bringing students together, the most important thing is to educate, just educate one another,” Sonya Lopez, sophomore English major at Villanova University, said.

Participants from each college spoke about starting projects on campus to get more students involved. Each also thought that it would be important to try to localize and globalize the issues that they are trying to instill in others.

Locally, there will be fundraisers, an AIDS walk and attending HIV/AIDS conferences. Students are also trying to promote Urban Promise, a local ministry helping children in inner-city schools.

“I became involved after hearing the stories learned about hardships, visited Washington and lobbied for more financial and medical aid in Africa,” Diana Vilares, senior English and communication major and CRS ambassador, said. “If others want to become involved it is important to visit CRS.org, Kiva.org and get involved with organizations on your campus.”

“What is awesome about this is that this idea came from students. What energizes us is the willingness to put your brains and your heart together,” Dr. Mary Laver, director of international partnerships, said.

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Megan Bernatavitz

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