An integral aspect of student formation on 84th St., experiential learning has for many years allowed Regians to explore the world around them, engaging with and learning from communities both local and global as a supplement to their work in the classroom. While travel restrictions and other obstacles have prevented such cultural, historical, and religious exposure from taking place over the past 3 years, several students, faculty, and staff were eager to revive this aspect of Regian education through a variety of travel experiences this summer. Through an exploration of ancient civilizations, foreign language and cultural exchange, and service immersion, students gained a larger perspective on our world, and with it a greater sense of their roles and responsibilities within it.
Starting this summer’s travel, a group of Latin students visited Rome to take part in a four-day tour conducted by the Paideia Institute for Humanistic Study. Joined by members of the Class of 2021 who had their trip canceled earlier in the pandemic, the Regians explored many of the city’s ancient ruins and renowned sites, including St. Peter’s Basilica, the Via Sacra, the Colosseum, and the location of Marc Antony’s eulogy of Julius Caesar. Adding to the week, Regis alumnus Fr. Anthony SooHoo, SJ ’93 met with the group during their stay, leading the students on exclusive tours of St. Ignatius Loyola’s private quarters and the Church of the Gesu. “Rome is the world’s greatest classroom. To see how excited the students were to learn about Christian iconography and papal history inside the most beautiful places of Christendom made the trip so worthwhile," reflected Language Department Chair Mr. David Bonagura ’99 on the value of the trip for the Regians. “We teachers try to bring the best features of the world to the classroom, but it is seeing these features where they were meant to be is the greatest way to inspire wonder and wisdom, the goals of a liberal arts education.”
Just a few countries away, two other sets of students participated in foreign language exchange programs in Berlin and Madrid. Hosted by Canisius-Kolleg, a Jesuit high school in the city, Regis German students honed their speaking skills and were shown around the city by their peers, visiting Brandenburg Gate, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, the Reichstag Building, and preserved sections of Berlin Wall. In Spain, Regians went on a sightseeing tour of el Museo Nacional del Prado, Palacio Real de Madrid, and El Retiro Park, all while practicing their Spanish with native speakers. High schoolers from Regis’ host school, el Colegio Nuestra Señora Del Recuerdo, visited New York City in September to immerse themselves in American life. “It was interesting to immerse myself in another culture with such an intricate history," shared Jonah Kennedy '24, who took part in the Berlin program. “Learning about the atrocities of the Holocaust, the divisions brought on by the Berlin Wall, and the intricate beauty of the historic castles created an experience I'll never forget."
Experiential learning also took place closer to home, with several students hitting the road to West Virginia for two service immersion projects. The first group, spending their week in the town of Wheeling, learned about the history and culture of Appalachia and how issues of environmental degradation, rural poverty, and the housing crisis have impacted the region. Regians quickly got to work helping to remove invasive species from nearby forests, served meals at the Greater Wheeling Soup Kitchen, and assisted at a community garden that employs the blind and visually impaired. In a written reflection on the last day of the project, Callum Reilly '24 shared openly about what he gained from the experience. “This new connection with the people of West Virginia that I have formed makes me care more about their struggles and makes advocacy for these groups easier," he said. “My experiences with the people of Appalachia have made me realize that many in my own community endure similar problems. Ending my time in Wheeling, I feel inspired to take the perspective I have gained and address issues in my area."
The following week, another group embarked to the rural Colcord to partner with the West Virginia Ministry of Advocacy and Workcamps (WVMAW), a Christian-based organization that builds and assigns work teams to complete a variety of projects for elderly, disabled, and low-income residents. The team from 84th St. helped construct a 50 ft. access ramp for an elderly woman, who due to a contractor shortage and interruptions from the pandemic had been on the waiting list for 3 years. After completing the build, the students learned about the coal industry on a mine tour and discussed issues of recent flooding in the region.
Rounding out the summer, a team of Regians ventured west to Nogales, Arizona to learn from community members and migrants about the struggles at the U.S. - Mexico border. Splitting their time in both countries, the 8 students volunteered with the Kino Border Initiative, a humanitarian aid organization that seeks to promote solidarity and just immigration practices through binational education, policy reform, and direct engagement with migrants. The group learned firsthand about the violence and adverse conditions that have caused many to seek asylum in America, and how far hospitality, compassion, and being present with the marginalized go in creating a better world. “The main lesson she shared was her belief that migrating is just a process and should not define a person," recalled Peter Zuccarello '23 of Bernie, a local social worker who met with the Regians to share her story of involvement with Kino and Mexican immigration. “The migrants have talents and special abilities and they should not be looked down upon because of this hard time in their lives."
“Regis returning to our immersive and cultural roots is what makes our community special," remarked Director of Campus Ministry Mr. Edwin Ortiz, who organized the student programs in West Virginia and Arizona/Mexico. “Our students continue to live out their openness to growth via the many communities we have joined this summer. It reflects well on our interconnectedness and ability to truly value the lives of our brothers and sisters throughout the world.”
This story was first published in the Winter 2023 issue of the Regis Magazine.