The Gonzaga Service Program provides experiences that increase in depth and intensity as the student matures—what begins as a sheltered exposure to the poor during freshman year grows into deeper relationships with society’s marginalized by graduation.
Every senior is also required to complete 40 hours of community service—20 before classes begin in August, and 20 more during the academic year. In the classroom that year, during a Religion course called Social Justice, students reflect on their interactions with the poor and marginalized. They also learn to observe examples of structural injustice, develop a critical analysis of their causes, and anticipate solutions in the light of the faith-justice tradition.
Local Service Opportunities
Gonzaga’s urban location affords us many opportunities to serve those who are poor, hungry, or physically or mentally challenged.
The McKenna Center is a drop-in center for homeless men that’s located in the basement of St. Aloysius Church, right on Gonzaga's campus. Students in the Freshman and Sophomore classes are invited to volunteer during their lunch periods to serve lunch to the guests there.
Unique Residential is a nursing home next door to Gonzaga on Eye street. Every Tuesday after school, a group of Gonzaga students spends time with the residents there, reading to them, playing games, talking, and building community.
In 2005, Gonzaga was proud to open the inaugural high school chapter of Campus Kitchen. A national food recycling program, Campus Kitchen uses food that might otherwise be discarded by cafeterias to make nutritious meals for the elderly and home-bound. On Mondays and Thursdays from 3-5pm, Gonzaga students of all grade levels prepare meals in the McKenna Center kitchen. On Tuesdays and Fridays from 3-5pm, students deliver the meals to neighbors in need in our community.
McKenna's Wagon is a mobile soup kitchen that departs daily from Martha's Table, near U Street, and serves the homeless. A Gonzaga group goes out every Wednesday evening as part of this program. Each week, we take three sophomores.
All students are invited to play chess with students from the Washington Jesuit Academy, a Jesuit middle school serving boys from low-income areas in Washington, D.C., on Monday afternoons from 3-5pm.
Service Immersion Trips
Led by members of the Gonzaga faculty and staff, Gonzaga outreach groups travel to and serve the needs of a host community. While there, students live simply, build community, participate in prayer and reflection, and work to understand and build social justice.
Gonzaga organizes two trips to Apopka, Florida, every year—one over Spring Break and one during the summer. During each, students have the opportunity to learn about the everyday lives of farm workers and migrant workers. They stay in the homes of migrant families, becoming part of the family throughout the week. Students encounter the realities of immigration, citizenship, labor policies, and farm work from various angles.
Rising seniors spend one week at the Oscar Romero Center in Camden, New Jersey. They experience urban poverty in new ways by living more simply and helping the city’s social service agencies. Each day, students venture out to different sites in small groups, allowing them to encounter justice from various angles. Students also have the opportunity to venture into the city of Philadelphia for one day of sightseeing.
This project is open to freshmen and sophomores who are interested in growing in empathy for the rural poor. Approximately 25 underclassmen and six faculty chaperones spend four to five days and nights in the community of Emmitsburg, Maryland. While there, service projects include yard work, handy work, and relational activities with individuals and groups who are marginalized.
Rising seniors will have the opportunity to spend the week on Gonzaga's newest service immersion to Jerusalem Farm in Kansas City, MO. The week will be spent learning about urban poverty, sustainable farming, and environmental justice. Participants will have the opportunity to work on the farm located in the city, prepare meals, and deliver food to those in need.
The McKenna Immersion Program is a five day encounter with urban poverty and homelessness. This program is run right out of our own McKenna Center and includes direct service as well as some advocacy work on Capitol Hill. All interested freshmen and sophomores are invited to apply.
In this program, rising seniors work and stay in the St. Bernard Parish of New Orleans. They help to rebuild houses in this area, a blue-collar fishing neighborhood that was especially hard hit by Hurrican Katrina. Students also have the opportunity to tour the city and view the rebuilding process.
Following junior year, students may participate in a week-long trip to South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation. Volunteers learn about the Lakota culture while working with the Red Cloud Indian School and assisting nearby families.
Ten students travel to Nogales, Arizona, and Nogales, Mexico, to learn about the realities of immigration. Students work at the Kino Border Initiative, a Jesuit organization that seeks to meet the needs of migrants in Nogales. The group crosses the border into Mexico to work at the KBI soup kitchen and walks the path migrants walk through the desert that divides the US and Mexico.
Gonzaga's service requirement teaches you a sense of conviction. It makes you unsettled. As long as there’s progress to be made, as long as there are people suffering ... it stirs up, like, this hunger for justice.
--Christian Tabash '17
Educating young men in the Jesuit tradition since 1821