Service Immersion Experiences

Program Overview

One of the hallmarks of McQuaid Jesuit is the Service Immersion Trip Program. As a Catholic Jesuit school, our mission to educate young men includes service to others and a commitment to justice. Our service immersion trips seek to encapsulate both of these important aspects by serving communities in need and challenging our students to think critically about how we are all called to work towards a more just world where the human dignity of every person is fully recognized.

The locations students go for their service immersion experiences are vastly different, but the expectations and processes leading up to the trips are uniform. On each trip students are held to the following five expectations:

  1. Respect: Students will respect their fellow students and chaperones. They will show respect to our hosts and the people of the communities we are guests in.
  2. Hard Work: A service trip is not a vacation, students should be prepared to work hard and take initiative at our service sites.
  3. Community: While on the trip, students will be living in community and sharing certain tasks like preparing meals and cleaning up. These tasks should be shared equally and students should understand their actions affect everyone else in the group.
  4. Reflections: the reflections on issues of social justice and Catholic Social Teaching are an integral part of all service trips.
  5. Be Present: Cell phones and other technology will not be allowed for most of the trip. This is to encourage students to be fully present in all aspects of the experience.

In preparation for their trip, students will have mandatory pre-trip meetings. At these meetings students will further share and discuss their motivations for serving others, what is means to be “committed to justice,” and learn about the communities we are going to serve.

The Trips

The Working Boys Center – Quito, Ecuador

Above: Our group of McQuaid students, faculty, and staff in Ecuador in 2016

The Working Boys’ Center, also known as The Center for Working Families, is a Jesuit ministry located in Quito, Ecuador. Founded in 1964, the Center’s original mission focused on the educational needs of shoe shine boys working on the streets of the Ecuadorian capitol. Soon afterward, the program was expanded to include the entire family and the Working Boys’ Center was born. Since its inception, the Center’s overarching objective has been to eliminate poverty among working children and their families. To date, over 6,000 families or around 30,000 people have left poverty forever as a result of the Center’s programs.

The Working Boys’ Center focuses on strengthening and uplifting the whole family as a means to fight poverty. Their holistic program offers education programs, health care, and job training to name a few of their services. The Center also assists families in starting new businesses and in building their homes.  In the more than fifty years the Center has operated they have assisted over 6,000 families totaling over 30,000 individuals to escape poverty.

Before working with the Working Boys Center:

60.3% of people lived in a single-room dwelling
73% of people had access to a sewer system

12% of people had telephone service
52.9% of people had seen a doctor for preventive purposes
40.5% of people had running water

After working with the Working Boys Center:

Only 2.9% of people lived in a single-room dwelling
More than 96% of beneficiaries had access to a sewer system
59.2% of people attained telephone service
More than 63.2% had seen a doctor for preventive purposes
94.7% of people had running water

Above: McQuaid Jesuit students, faculty, and staff overlooking Quito from 2017

McQuaid Jesuit students will get a full immersion experience while spending a week working along side the people of Quito. Students will get many hands-on experiences at the Working Boys Center through touring the facilities, helping prepare lunch for the students, learning about the trade skills program by shadowing older students, and celebrating Mass at the Center. On one of the final days of the trip McQuaid students engage in a “minga” or work day. They assist in building a home for a family that is helped by the Center.

Ecuador has a vibrant history and culture that students will learn about throughout the trip. There will be a tour of the historic city center including sights such as the presidential palace and Quito’s most well-known Jesuit church, the Compania de Jesus.  Otovalo Market is one of the most well-known markets in South American and students will get a chance to see the work of local artisans and vendors and barter with them on a day trip to this small town North of Quito. Other opportunities to learn about Ecuador and its people include visiting the homes of families served by the Center and seeing El Mitad del Mundo, the center of the world equator monument.

McQuaid Jesuit students who serve at the Working Boys’ Center live with other volunteers in the “Volunteer Center.” The residence houses year-long as well as short-term volunteers and their chaperones. Students live in traditional dorm rooms with three other classmates. Each room has four bunk beds, a bathroom and shower. The staff of the Volunteer Center provides food for breakfast and lunch, and they prepare dinners five nights a week. The staff also ensures potable water is available to all volunteers.

Since students on the Ecuador trip are traveling to a developing nation some extra steps to prepare for the experience are needed.

McQuaid Jesuit abides by the Center for Disease Control’s advisement that travelers to Ecuador receive vaccinations for Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Tetanus, and Typhoid. For more information on staying healthy while traveling abroad, click here. Please wait to make vaccination arrangements until after our first orientation meeting.

Students will need a valid passport to travel to Ecuador. Students accepted onto the Ecuador trip and are without a passport should apply for one immediately.

While internet and phone access is available at the Center, students will not have access to their personal mobile devices. All communication will be made through the chaperones, and emergency contact information will be provided. In addition, chaperones will communicate daily to parents through email and other social media.

Appalachia Institute – Wheeling, WV

Appalachia is a 205,000 square mile region centering on the Appalachian Mountains from Southern New York to Northern Mississippi.  It includes all of West Virginia and parts of 12 other states.  Almost half of the region’s population is rural, compared with 20% of the national population.

While in Appalachia McQuaid Jesuit partners with The Appalachian Institute at Wheeling Jesuit University (AI). The AI’s mission is to promote “research, service, and advocacy for and with the people of Appalachia to build healthier, stronger, and more sustainable communities.”  The Institute is rooted in Jesuit tradition and seeks increase awareness about issues that relate to the Appalachian region including public health, environmental degradation, poverty, and job loss .

To implement its mission, the Appalachian Institute coordinates service, learning and immersion trips for high school and college groups from around the country.

McQuaid Jesuit students travel to Wheeling, West Virginia, to participate in the AI’s week long Direct Service Immersion Program. The group will partner with organizations in the Wheeling area and possibly in another more rural community. The types of service could include home repair projects, serving meals in a soup kitchen, helping at an after school program for children, or working on a local, organic farm cooperative to name a few.

In addition to service, students will also learn about West Virginia’s history through a tour of historic downtown Wheeling and a musical program about the history of the labor movement in Appalachia. They will also get to see first hand some of the devastating environmental impacts of coal mining and refining by visiting coal extraction sites.

Students live in simple bunkhouse-style quarters arranged by the AI. As on other service trips, students will live in community and share responsibilities of cooking meals and cleaning. The housing in West Virginia is fairly modest so there is a natural focus on strengthening the community of students on the trip.

St. Anne’s Mission (Navajo Nation) – Klagetoh, Arizona

Above: our group at Canyon de Chelly from our most recent trip in February of 2018

Photos from the July 2016 Trip

St. Anne Mission is a Franciscan ministry in Klagetoh, Arizona and on the Navajo Nation approximately halfway between Albuquerque, New Mexico and Flagstaff, Arizona.  In addition to serving as a Roman Catholic parish, St. Anne Mission provides a variety of outreach ministries to the Navajo people, including basic home repairs, programming for children, and in-home care for the elderly.

The Navajo Reservation the largest Native American reservation by land area in the United States and is home to some of the poorest people in the country.  Census data consistently places over 40 percent of the population below the poverty line, with children often enduring the brunt of the effects, compounded by limited educational opportunities, poor infrastructure including lack of water access, and high rates of disease, especially diabetes.  Nonetheless, the Navajo people maintain great pride in their history, culture, and spirituality, all of which remain alive and vibrant across the beautiful southwest landscape.

The Mission welcomes volunteer groups from schools, universities, parishes, and other groups, which support its programming throughout the year.  McQuaid Jesuit typically works at the Mission for a week in July. This past February, a group of students embarked on the first McQuaid Jesuit winter break service trip to the Navajo Nation for a week of service and learning from the Navajo people.

More information is at www.klagetoh.org.

St. Anne Mission typically engages high school groups such as McQuaid Jesuit’s in a variety of home repair projects.  Students typically break up into several teams at the start of each day, accompanied by a Mission employee and an adult leader.  Some projects last multiple days, while others are smaller in scale and can be completed in a morning or afternoon.  The projects inevitably bring students into contact with Navajo families, who will frequently take time to share their stories and answer questions.

With a large population of young children in the area, St. Anne Mission also sponsors activities for them, including trips to swim at a local reservoir and nightly romps on the Mission’s playground.  Older children frequent the Mission’s basketball court for pick-up games.

While working at the Mission, McQuaid Jesuit students also visit historical and cultural sites of importance, including the Canyon de Chelly National Monument and Hubbell Trading Post.  Past trips have also included a rare opportunity to witness traditional Pueblo Dances in neighboring New Mexico.  A traditional sweat session in the Mission’s own sweat lodge is also an integral part of the experience.

Our work at St. Anne Mission is accompanied by regular reflection, drawing on scripture, the Native American tradition, and Ignatian spirituality.  Students are challenged to look inward and examine their strengths and weaknesses in the context of encountering and accompanying the poor.

Students live in simple, dorm-style housing while staying at St. Anne Mission.  Meals are shared, and students assist with food preparation.  Depending on the trip itinerary, the group may camp at a local state park for one evening of the trip.

Students do not have access to personal electronic devices during the trip.  Faculty leaders maintain daily communication with parents via email and text messages.  Due to the isolated nature of the region, cellular coverage in northeast Arizona is limited, but the Mission has reliable wifi and a landline.

Urban Plunge – Rochester, NY

Urban Plunge is a weekend opportunity for juniors which takes place after midterm week (typically, the last weekend in January). This unique service immersion trip offers an opportunity to understand the experience of the marginalized in the City of Rochester. The weekend is sponsored and run by the Sisters of St. Joseph Volunteer Corp.

Students get the opportunity to spend a day serving at a local charity and often they are sent to a charity run by the Sisters of St. Joseph .  In the past, students have spent time at St. Joseph’s House of Hospitality, a shelter for men run by the Rochester Catholic Workers on South Avenue.  Student volunteers could also go to Bethany House, a shelter for women, or Morning Star Foster Care, a home for medically fragile children, both run by the Sisters of St. Joseph.

Students spend the weekend at the Sister’s of St. Joseph house near St. Boniface in Rochester. The retreat begins Friday evening and runs until Sunday morning. Throughout the weekend students will have the opportunity to volunteer at a Rochester-area charity, build community with their classmates, and reflect on what it means to serve others. Students will also have the opportunity to celebrate Mass and engage in an interactive presentation on Catholic Social Teaching lead by the Sisters of St. Joseph.

As mentioned above, supper is served on Friday and Saturday nights, breakfast is served on Saturday and Sunday mornings.  There will be lunch at the shelters on Saturday.  Students are welcome to bring snacks.  Accomodations for students are bunk-style rooms.  The students should bring their own sheets, pillow case and towels.  St. Boniface provides blankets for everyone.  Students do not have access to personal electronic devices during the weekend activities.  Faculty leaders will maintain daily communication with parents via email and text messages.

Camp Koinonia – Italy Valley, NY

Camp Koinonia is nestled in Italy Valley, in the heart of the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York. It is a place of exceptional beauty and natural ruggedness. Every direction offers a breathtaking view of God’s handiwork. The rolling hills surrounding the valley create complete privacy from the outside world. Camp Koinonia is the perfect place for reflection on some of God’s greatest creations – nature and family!

This service trip will be a combination of service work and a summer camp experience.  The days will be spent doing maintenance work for the camp: painting, roofing cabins, building a walkway for the chapel, etc.  The evening programming will include skits, reflection, prayer, and a bonfire.  We will also have free time for ball field activities and capture the flag type of games at night.

Camp Koinonia provides students with the opportunity to embody the mission of McQuaid Jesuit to be “men for and with others.” By enjoying a summer camp experience that is prayerful, productive, and a lot of fun, students are able to deepen friendships with fellow students. Additionally, it will fulfill middle school or freshman service theme requirements. Most importantly, students have an opportunity to serve God and live out the Gospel values.

Students live in simple bunkhouse-style cabins. Meals are shared and provided by Camp Koinonia staff. The cost of the trip covers food and lodging.

Students will not have access to personal electronic devices during the trip. Faculty leaders will maintain any necessary communication with parents via email and text messages.

Each year McQuaid Jesuit hopes to improve its service immersion program and continue offering a diverse array of experiences to students. Students interested in participating in a service immersion trip should attend an information session in October. Trip applications will be available at the information sessions, and in Campus Ministry, and the application deadline will be in late October or early November. Students will find out the trip they have been accepted for by mid-November.

If you have any questions about the service immersion program or any of the service trips please contact Mr. Flaherty.