SNJM schools network on social justice issues


Sumble Sadiq peruses a fair trade chocolate brochure while listening to Albany speaker.

” I can’t believe it, but they are just like us!” was a common observation by seniors after participating in social networking with another school sponsored by the Sisters of the Holy Names (SNJM).

The highlight of their networking project came on Friday, December 2, when Sets 1 and 7 students in Social Justice and English 4 Honors classes met on Skype with two AP Literature classes at the Academy of the Holy Names in Albany, New York.   The students spent most of the meeting sharing social justice projects about water and human trafficking.  However, they did take time at the end of the session to trade information about their school clubs and activities.

The Skype meeting was just one of several modes of communication between twelfth-grade students in both schools. Students shared summer reading assignments in their senior English classes taught by Mrs. Edie LeBas in Tampa and Mrs. Ellen Loughney in Albany. Each girl chose one of two books relevant to SNJM social justice issues, either one about water (When the Rivers Run Dry by Fred Pearce) or the other about human trafficking (The Slave Next Door by Kevin Bales).

The networking process began last spring when Mrs. LeBas set up a wiki named “AHN Social Justice Café” for all four teachers to plan and share  ideas, information and resources for the project. She used Go to Meeting to train both Mrs. Loughney and Ms. Dupree-Dominguez in how to use HyLighter to set up the first stage of the social networking project.

In the fall, students in both schools shared their comments and analyses of these books on HyLighter, which is a text-based discussion platform designed for social networking and problem solving. To expand the discussions beyond the two summer reading books, Sister Regan and Ms. Molleen Dupree-Dominguez of Holy Names High School in Oakland, California, uploaded articles to the HyLighter site for additional close reading and responding.

Through Sister Ann Regan’s classes this fall, Mrs. Loughney shared educational videos and information about the lack of fair trade by the Hershey Chocolate Company.  The Albany Academy has taken on this issue through education and public support of chocolate companies that adhere to a fair trade policy.

Sister Regan’s students had the opportunity to view videos of speakers and class discussions at the Albany school.  In addition, Mrs. Loughney mailed pamphlets and other educational materials for Sister Regan to share with her students.  In December Academy Technology Integration Specialist Mrs. Sergina Bach provided support for the Skype meeting, trouble shooting problems with the connection from the Albany campus by helping Mrs. Loughney reset her computer settings through the shared screen utility.

Senior Vicky Sierra, who missed out on the Skype meeting because of a college visit,  created a video to introduce Albany students to the seniors in the more casual atmosphere of the senior lounge.   Albany students reciprocated with their video, allowing students in both schools to get to know each other on a more personal level.

Sierra was so thrilled with the video exchange that she is now working on a new one to send to Albany in January.  “Since I did not get to Skype with Albany, at least I am getting to know them by video!”

Senior Amanda Williams radiated her enthusiasm for the first stage of this social networking project in an excerpt from her Social Justice journal:

“ The Academy of the Holy Names Albany girls were not only nice, but highly inspirational to me and I think to our class as a whole. They are so passionate about the fair trade issue …something that I think we as a group in Tampa can also start acting on. They are already on the right path in making a difference …they gave us girls here in Tampa a vision of what we can be and the motivation to actually go out in the world and start changing it.”

There is more excitement to come in the second semester when Holy Names High School in Oakland joins with the other two schools on sharing ideas and planning projects.

McWilliams did not hide her enthusiasm at the prospect of learning from another school.   “Albany’s Boutique Noel, the sponsoring of Nicaraguan kids, the girls’ participation in out-of-school community organizations … inspired us as a senior class to kick start our passion to make a difference at our school. Overall, I think we have great potential to create powerful ideas just like Albany!”