A Thrill of Hope
In this time of social distance, the ways in which we can meaningfully engage with one another have drastically changed. Even still, developing and maintaining personal connections is more important now than ever before. This is especially true in the classroom.
Since the start of the school year, I have been assisting in weekly Talking Circles with our 4th graders. Talking Circles serve as a space for building relationships and community through empathetic listening. At a time when some of our students are learning with us in person and others are learning remotely, building community is more essential and more challenging than ever before. Engagement can look different based on what is happening in our students’ lives. At the beginning of the year, this meant students were sometimes logging into our talking circles with their cameras off, but with some consistency, love and care, eventually talking circles started to look like this:
Even in this stressful time, one constant remains, and it is that our community always rallies around each other. With the help of our faculty, staff and their families, our students continue to be invested in their learning and eager to be a part of their classroom whether in person or remotely.
As we embark on this season of hope and giving, we invited members of our school community to reflect on where they’ve found joy, love and peace so far this year. My hope is that in this time of great uncertainty, you can find a foothold in the optimism in our school community.
A Place of Many Wonders
In the spirit of spreading joy, love and goodwill, our alumni continue to be persons for others by offering their support in significant ways. They are helping to hand out 25-pound boxes of fresh meat, dairy and produce to families in the community during our food distributions; providing eLearning support as classroom aides while completing their college coursework; and, covering front desk duties here at CJA. Our hope is that CJA will continue to serve as a space where our young men can always return as they chart their own paths toward meaningful employment.
Cecil White of CJA’s Class of 2015 shared a personal reflection on the importance of CJA in his life:
I have been an active member of the CJA community for nearly a decade now and the people I have come to know there are like a second family. Chicago Jesuit Academy is a place of many wonders and opportunities for literally anyone who steps within its walls. Chicago Jesuit Academy is a place where I can always turn to when I don’t know what the next step is. Whether it is school or personal, CJA is always there and ready to lend a helping hand. The smiles, laughter and life lessons are all things I am extremely grateful for and I wouldn’t be the person that I am today if it were not for my CJA family.
CJA ’15, King College Prep ’19, Northern Illinois University
Persistence, Patience and an Open Mind
Despite the constraints of the pandemic, our volunteers continue to be a dedicated and important part of our work. A handful of volunteers have been supporting our students as they access their eLearning remotely. One of our dedicated volunteers has reflected on that experience below:
So many relationships – personal and professional – have been interrupted during this pandemic. Pivoting to a new normal has involved some “losses” and even a few “gains”. Today’s technology has been an essential blessing (occasionally a curse) in establishing and sustaining our connections. The CJA staff, as they always have, are doing yeoman’s work building a learning platform for their students, faculty and volunteers. They have gone the extra mile to provide tech support, training, troubleshooting and affirmation to all of us.
Pivoting to a Zoom format has been challenging to me. I am in awe of our students who navigate these waters like seasoned sea captains. My volunteer experience has shifted from being, most often, in the classroom setting. On Zoom my connections are one on one. I have loved working with the group dynamic, but now I have a new opportunity to strengthen individual relationships. It is not easy to do in this way – but I still find it rewarding. My ongoing concerns are, “How are my students experiencing these meetings?” “Are they ‘Zoomed’ out?” “How do we finesse academic assignments?” This format has required persistence, patience and an open mind. I am eager for all of us to be back in the classroom to derive all the benefits of in-person learning with the expert guidance of our teachers. In the meantime, I am happy to maintain my role at CJA through Zoom. My fervent wish is that CJA students will continue to thrive remotely as on campus.
Year End Giving
Please keep CJA in mind as you consider your year-end giving! Whether through an online donation, an end-of-year tax-free gift through your IRA, a gift of stock, a donation through the Illinois tax credit scholarship, or your holiday shopping on Amazon with Amazon Smile.
Please also consider donating a book or two to the CJA library through our Amazon wishlist!.
- Winter Break Begins – 12/21
- Faculty and Staff Professional Development – 1/4
- Winter Break Ends – 1/5
- CJA Closed for Martin Luther King Jr. Day 1/18
- CJA Closed for Presidents’ Day 2/15