by Jeffrey Mu ’24
The United States has gotten more diverse over the last ten years. According to the Census Bureau, since 2020, the diversity index for just the state of California has reached an all time high at 69.7%, and it has only risen since then.
This data can mean a few things. First, the society we now live in has become more integrated as we are connected together by the growing power of social media, and second, as the ideals of inclusion and equality appear everywhere from conversations to the management of classes and companies, combatting inequalities in all forms is more important than ever.
To this end, finding a way to fight the injustices in our lives is a crucial part of what it means to be a Bell. And so it is in this spirit that the annual tradition of the Justice Summit aims to bring students together to reach a common goal, presented in a theme. This year’s theme is Walking with the Excluded.
The new structure of this year’s Summit is a surprise to many, as it is a complete shift from the years past. According to Ms. Antonio, the leader of the Summit this year, the event’s format is a complete shift from the Summits of past years, including the ones experienced by juniors and seniors. Instead of the typical one-week long Summit pre-Covid, it has been condensed into one day – a day packed with action and events for the students to engage in. Students begin their day with the opening ceremony from keynote speakers from the Kino Border Initiative – 16 in total. They will then engage in activities in the quad, before beginning their two chosen breakout sessions. Finally, after lunch, they will end the day with a ceremony led once again by these prominent speakers.
Though traditionally, Bellarmine invites speakers from schools and organizations to commence and end the Summit, this year marks the first time breakout sessions are offered. Instead of the usual classroom format, with everyone exploring the same topic, the students’ choices of breakout sessions will dictate how they want to spend the day. Mr. Martin, a member of the planning committee for the Summit says this is to narrow down the focus on exclusion, because exclusion in and of itself is a very diverse and broad concept. Who is being excluded, and how? In what ways might we explore exclusion and mitigate its impacts? Questions like these will be answered in the Summit, following the student’s own personal choice of the topic of exclusion they want to learn more about.
Not only does this year’s theme lend itself to this type of structure, but the fact that many different Affinity groups throughout campus are leading some of these sessions can provide valuable insights into exclusions that many different groups face and experience. Talking to Abdullah Anwar ’24, a leader of the Muslim Student Union, he mentioned that just like the mock-breakout sessions that had been hosted before in many of these clubs, someone would give their story and other people would respond to it in groups of thirty to forty people. Now, since breakout sessions are split into two periods and consist of many different options, these groups are condensed, but the goal and structure is still the same: sharing different voices and stories.
Another neat addition of this year’s summit is the activities hosted in the quad during Community time. During the regular school day, this time is for students to attend office hours or hang out with friends, and the Summit does not change this. Instead, during community time, students can expect to see various activities and stands set up throughout the quad, featuring everything from signing your name as part of a petition, or crafting a row of paper figures for the maker lab to string up and lift in a pulley system. In short, community time will be both a relaxing time and a time of action in furthering learning about exclusion, just without the office hours.
And so with these new additions of events and activities during this year’s summit, all students, faculty, and staff should expect a more enriched learning opportunity – all revolving around the common theme of walking with the excluded. The Summit this year has undergone changes in all its activities, and countless hours have been poured into crafting the best experience possible for students. However, because the day functions like any regular schedule, tardies and absences will still be noted. For the event to function and reach its biggest impact, it is of utmost importance that students do not call in absent and make sure to attend their breakout sessions. Participating in the Summit will be a fantastic learning experience, and with the added privilege of keynote speakers, all participants should expect an in-depth journey into the topic of inclusion and how it affects our world today.
So whether it’s your identity, beliefs, or experiences you want to share, the Justice Summit will be an inclusive place for you. With the new additions of Breakout Sessions and events in the quad led by Affinity groups and notable speakers, the Summit will sure be one to top. And in our growing and changing world, diversity and inclusion have fought their way into being of upmost importance in life in all its facets. Though we all may seem to be growing closer together by technology, we must maintain the interconnectedness that comes with walking with others. And whether it’s fighting discrimination, finding identity, or discovering the conflicts of today, the Justice Summit will most assuredly have something for you this Wednesday, so come with an open mind and your unique experiences!
Jeffrey Mu is the Editor-in-Chief of the Bell Online. Check out his articles on this website documenting student life and the Bellarmine experience.