Deepening the Service Experience at Regis Jesuit
Introducing the Ignatian Immersion & Solidarity Program
Formation through service has long connected Regis Jesuit students to each other, to the community and to God. Now, as is true with so many aspects of a Jesuit education, innovative ideas and new tools are ensuring that the Ignatian vision of service—to create a more just, humane and sustainable world—has even greater impact.
Beginning in fall 2021, a new Ignatian Immersion & Solidarity Program takes all Regis Jesuit students on a four-year journey that will enhance service placements and the Capstone Project with the building of specific skills over time. Year one expands students’ understanding of community. Year two explores how to be in authentic relationship with neighbors. Year three begins to teach students about justice and ways to create access and opportunity for vulnerable communities. Year four asks students to apply their skills to help lift up the voices of the ignored and unheard. Using new software, students will record their activity and answer increasingly complex questions that inspire them to reflect on what they learn.
“The framework of counting hours—which has long been the norm at high schools and colleges across the country—can be an obstacle to achieving our goals,” said Christina Ortiz, Ignatian Immersion & Solidarity Program Director and theology teacher, who earned her master’s degree in theology from the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley.
“Service isn’t a one-way transaction,” she said, “so while our students are putting in the time, we also want to be sure we’re teaching active listening skills, empathy, compassion and communication, so they’ll see the larger issues.” Ortiz said this level of formation has always been accessible to students at Regis Jesuit, but they had to discover it, or luck into it with the right mentors. “Now, we’ll make sure every student has this depth of experience. Ultimately, we hope they’ll find a vocational call to help promote justice and help build the kingdom of God on Earth.”
For Patrick Cole ’99, now a special education teacher in Denver, service during high school “planted a seed, which took a long time to develop.” His placement at Warren Village, a residential facility for single mothers who had experienced homelessness and food insecurity, exposed him for the first time to “children who needed some more support.” His advisor’s praise that he had the “patience, energy and intellect to work with children,” led him to pursue a master’s in education leadership and administration from Regis University after earning his bachelor’s degree from Creighton University in Omaha, where he met his wife Catherine, who now teaches theology at Regis Jesuit.
Cole became a special education teacher at Asbury Elementary School after teaching mainstream students for four years, then taking a hiatus to work in business. “I wasn’t fulfilled just making money, and a career coach helped me remember me that the only job I ever loved was working with kids. It all goes back to my experience in my junior year at Warren Village. That’s where I discovered my desire to help the marginalized. I wanted to help educate a part of society that I thought could use some love.”
Cole now is the site supervisor at Asbury Elementary, working with about eight Regis Jesuit students a year who come to volunteer for two weeks with children who have multiple disabilities. He tries to pair the juniors and seniors with activities they’ll enjoy, “because if they are having fun, they’ll also experience the power of helping kids feel loved and successful. They’ll see how their work impacts lives.”
He said, “The new service program will enhance what already distinguishes Regis Jesuit from other schools that offer great academics. I never would have done this work if it weren’t for Regis Jesuit. I landed in the right place, but if I’d done more reflection earlier in my life, it might not have taken so long for my calling to manifest.”