Dear CJA Community,
Throughout the pandemic and the racial reckoning that has gripped our country, we have worked together at CJA to care for our students and alumni. In this shared work, I continue to be awed by our students’ and alumni’s courage, determination and selflessness in the service of others.
It has been inspiring to get to speak with our students and alumni about the work they have done through their churches and schools and in the community during these extraordinary times. It has also been a great consolation to work with so many of our alumni during our food distributions at CJA for our neighborhood.
Our students’ and alumni’s lives are filled with great promise. It is an honor to see how they are growing into their many talents as young men who are loving, religious, open to growth, intellectually competent and committed to doing justice. They are great gifts to our world, and we are mindful of how fortunate we are to work with them each day.
Today, we are sharing our annual update about our efforts to become a more diverse, equitable and inclusive institution with our entire CJA community.
We hope this year’s update invites continued reflection, conversation and action as we strive to build a more just and equitable society ad majorem Dei gloriam – for the greater glory of God.
I remain grateful that you continue to walk with us on this journey. Thank you for your love and support on behalf of our students and alumni.
Annual Update on Our Commitment to Justice, Equity, Inclusivity and Belonging
On 9 June 2020, CJA published a statement honoring Black lives in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. In that statement, we promised to review our diversity, equity and inclusion practices, and we committed to publishing a summary of our review and any new commitments by 15 October 2020. We also committed to sharing an annual update about our growth toward becoming a more diverse, equitable and inclusive community each June. Please find an update on our progress through June 2021 below:
As a work of the Catholic Church, we remain committed to walking in solidarity with our students, alumni, families and colleagues as we strive to repair the social sin of racism. We commit to engaging in respectful dialogue and anti-bias, anti-racist training that recognizes and affirms our commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion as essential elements of our mission as a Jesuit, Catholic institution.
There are many secular notions about what Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) work ought to look like. Some of these secular perspectives implicitly or explicitly champion a political ideology. We do not believe that is what we are called to do at CJA. Instead, we believe we are called to lean into our Jesuit and Catholic mission and identity. Catholic social teaching – summarized well in these articles by Rev. Chris Devron, S.J., and Rev. William Byron, S.J. – is our guide.
We have also tried to spend meaningful time reviewing what the Jesuit Schools Network (JSN) says our Jesuit schools are called to be. In 2015, JSN published Our Way of Proceeding: Standards and Benchmarks for Jesuit Schools in the 21st Century. During this past school year, JSN reviewed and revised Domain 5: Faith That Does Justice. As a result of this review, JSN renamed Domain 5 “Faith That Lives Justice” and materially updated the standards to better articulate and better integrate diversity, equity and inclusion work into the mission and identity of all Jesuit schools. In reviewing these standards, we have found the following three passages particularly instructive:
Today our prime educational objective must be to form men [and women] for others; men [and women] who will live not for themselves but for God and his Christ – for the God-human who lived and died for all the world; men [and women] who cannot even conceive of love of God which does not include love for the least of their neighbors; men [and women] completely convinced that love of God which does not issue in justice for others is a farce. (Pedro Arrupe, Valencia, Spain, 1973)
A Jesuit school community understands and develops a core Ignatian worldview that presupposes the goodness in all people and recognizes the Catholic principle that every person is charged with the Divine, created in the image and likeness of God…
13.2 The school program includes anti-racism/anti-bias training for board, faculty and staff, and students. All school personnel work to eradicate barriers between and among people such as misogyny, homophobia, and gender and socio-economic stereotyping and discrimination.
We have reviewed and updated CJA’s mission statement in partnership with our alumni, our alumni’s parents, our faculty, our staff and our board. Please find the new statement below:
Mission: Chicago Jesuit Academy is a loving and academically rigorous tuition-free Catholic elementary school for students and families from resilient communities impacted by historical disinvestment. We accompany our students and alumni from enrollment through the start of their careers as they develop their gifts and grow as men and women for others.
Means: Located in Austin on Chicago’s West Side, CJA admits students to all grades in our lower and middle school without regard for their race, ethnicity or religion, and CJA enrolls 3rd-, 4th- and 5th-grade students without regard for their past levels of academic achievement. We use small class sizes, extended school days and an 11-month school year to give personal care to our students and help them develop as whole persons. We accompany our alumni on their unique paths to meaningful employment and support them throughout high school, their post-secondary education and the start of their careers, always welcoming them back as leaders at CJA and in the broader community. CJA students, alumni, parents, faculty, staff, volunteers and benefactors listen to and learn from one another and make disciplined sacrifices to accomplish our shared mission. We partner with other schools and the broader community to create access to better educational resources, confront systemic racism and remove obstacles to educational equity. We call one another to find God in all things and be men and women for others who are open to growth, loving, religious, intellectually competent and committed to doing justice.
We have renewed our commitment to adding more Black and Latinx voices to CJA’s board of directors, committees and executive team. We are spending more time, dollars and other institutional resources to make greater progress toward this goal.
During the 2020-2021 school year, CJA’s board of directors was 82% white, 12% Black and 6% Latinx. In 2021-2022, CJA’s board of directors is 70% white, 20% Black and 10% Latinx. Across the same time, the female/male gender balance of the board of directors remained constant at 35%/65%. We have also added two CJA alumni to committees of CJA’s board of directors.
During the 2020-2021 school year, CJA’s executive team was 71% white, 14% Black and 14% Multiracial. In 2021-2022, CJA’s executive team is 57% white, 14% Black and 29% Multiracial. Across the same time, the female/male gender balance of the executive team remained constant at 57%/43%.
We commit to sharing the stories of our students, alumni and families in ways that emphasize their strength, resilience and courage. For an example, please see: https://www.chicagojesuitacademy.org/about-us/informational-materials/
We commit to setting the need for CJA’s existence and the scope and breadth of CJA’s mission within the broader context of our country’s history of systemic racism and the past 70 years of disinvestment on the West Side of Chicago. Unjust structures – specifically, inequitable access to well-resourced public schools – created the need for CJA.
We commit to listening to and learning from one another – especially the members of our Black Affinity Group (BAG), which was formed in June 2020 and includes Black members of our faculty and staff. We commit to compensating BAG members justly for their additional work.
The BAG continues to meet twice monthly. Quarterly, the BAG meets with our Executive Team to offer questions, concerns and suggestions. We paid stipends to BAG members who gave additional time to this work in the 2020-2021 school year.
We commit to learning from diversity, equity and inclusion experts as we critically review our curriculum and strive to build broad cultural competency across our entire faculty and staff.
We have contracted with DE&I experts to support our ongoing anti-bias, anti-racism (ABAR) professional development for our faculty and staff as well as our board of directors. This work is rooted in our Jesuit and Catholic mission and identity.
We commit to having a transparent process by which CJA parents, employees and other members of our community can share feedback about the Cook County Sheriff’s Police Department (CCSPD) officers with whom CJA has contracted to help ensure the blocks around CJA are safe. We commit to checking in with each officer as they arrive for duty and to building relationships with them. CJA does not employ a school resource officer, and the CCSPD officers do not serve as school resource officers. They have never been involved in student discipline at CJA, and we commit to maintaining this policy.
We continue to invite our families, faculty and staff to share feedback about our CCSPD officers with CJA via an anonymous online form. CJA’s Parent Safety Committee continues to meet quarterly and give input on the CCSPD presence on campus. Each CCSPD officer is greeted and checked in daily by a member of our campus safety team.
We commit to supporting our Alumni Board, which several alumni created in summer 2020.
We continue to support new initiatives of our Alumni Board, which recently created a charter and shared it with our alumni community.
We commit to strengthening and broadening our relationships with our neighbors and the surrounding community by sustaining partnerships with local organizations (i.e., The West Side Coalition) and hosting neighborhood athletic leagues.
Representatives from our community outreach team attend monthly faith-based community meetings in addition to participating in other community meetings and events throughout the West Side. We continue to partner with the West Side Coalition to host neighborhood cleanups and plan to resume hosting neighborhood athletic leagues post-pandemic.
We commit to making significant additional investments in our community as we continue to explore how CJA is called to be of greater service to children and families in our community.
In response to requests from parents of both our alumni and current students as well as requests from other members of our community, we have committed to creating a new girls’ program at CJA that will be the equal of our existing boys’ program. To accomplish this goal, we launched a $30 million capital campaign to fund the construction of a new $25-million 47,000-square-feet addition to our campus and to create a $5-million scholarship fund to underwrite the tuition-free education of the girls who will enroll at CJA in June 2023. The construction project has prioritized the hiring of CJA alumni who work in the trades as well as the creation of pathways into the trades for our alumni.
Over the next five years in partnership with the University of Notre Dame’s Lab for Economic Opportunities (LEO), CJA’s High School Bridge Program (HSB) will expand to work with students, families, alumni, faculty and school leaders at 18 elementary schools in communities that have been impacted by historical disinvestment throughout Chicago. These elementary schools will include traditional public, public charter and private schools. HSB helps 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th graders find and succeed in their best-fit high schools and build the foundation for their success in high school, post-secondary education and the start of their careers.
Our work is still far from done. We commit to holding ourselves accountable for this work. As we strive to build a more just and equitable world, we remain committed to publishing annual updates about our progress each June.
We root all these commitments within our mission and identity as a Jesuit, Catholic institution. We are animated by our belief in the Resurrection. We believe the cross is not the summary statement for our human condition. We believe God’s love is greater than any hate.
We acknowledge that we are, all of us, sinners. We are a people who regularly miss the mark. But we also believe that we are loved sinners, capable of repentance and redemption, made of both the dust of the earth and the inspired breath of God.
In all that we do, we strive to model for our students and alumni our shared commitment to our Grad-at-Grad values by being open to growth, intellectually competent, loving, religious and committed to doing justice in the service of others.