By Margaret Rusch – Class of 2012I had never really been exposed to the idea of social justice until I arrived here at Loyola. I had heard the term, but I thought it was for hippies or radicals and was not something I considered important. My sophomore year at Loyola, I decided on a last minute whim to apply for the Alternative Break Immersion Program because I wanted an opportunity to test out my Spanish skills. In the interview for the ABI program, the students asked me about my language proficiency, my openness to new experiences, and my understanding of the reasons that people are poor. That last one threw me for a loop. What did that have to do with anything? I just wanted to go, speak Spanish, and come back to my normal life. Well… that’s not really what happened. —–
I was selected to go on the ABI to the Cuernavaca Center for Intercultural Dialogue on Development (CCIDD) in Mexico. As it turned out, I had no idea what I got myself into. The trip to “real” Mexico and the program at CCIDD opened my eyes to so many realities that I had never even considered before. It is very difficult to imagine true poverty until you see it in front of your face, and we saw a lot while we were there. We learned historical and political reasons for the poverty that we saw, and discussed the political structures, like NAFTA, that keep Mexico from thriving economically. We also had conversations with victims of violence and people who had lost loved ones due to war. These activities struck me deeply. My heart panged with a desire to do something for these people who were living without enough food, in fear of being persecuted, etc. It just wasn’t fair! It was unjust. —– Once I left, I never stopped thinking about what I had learned. Since that first mind-opening experience, I have taken classes and trips, read articles, and attended protests and other events in support of this thing called “social justice”. I feel such a connection to CCIDD since it was the place I first discovered this passion of mine, and I have made efforts to stay connected. It was the comfort and passion that I felt there that made me consider taking time after graduation to do international service. I let the director of CCIDD know that I was available for the summer or whatever position she might have open. To my delight, she welcomed me with open arms. She offered me a job as a program director at CCIDD, and told me that I have a full-time position there if I want it. I readily accepted, already knowing that I love it there. I was never completely sure what I wanted to do after college, and tossed around the idea of medical school, graduate school, staying in Chicago and working, etc. But I will be moving to Mexico in June, and I have never been more certain that I am going to be doing something I absolutely love.