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Seeing the World Through A New Lens

Q&A with Jenna Salinas

Jenna Salinas '18

What was your first experience with the Ignatian Center?
My first experience was traveling on an Immersion trip to El Salvador the summer between my freshman and sophomore years.

What made you decide to go on that trip?
I went on my first immersion with the specific desire to see El Salvador. I had read "La Verdad" the summer before my first year (it was the required reading for first year students) and it prompted a huge desire to visit the country and gain a better understanding of the reality there. I had never been outside of the country before, and this was actually the first time that I had really felt called to go abroad.

How did that trip affect you?

I had little expectations going into the trip, so many things were a surprise to me. First of all, it really propelled me to explore spirituality and what it means to me. Spirituality is something that I formerly associated with religion. On immersion, I learned that spirituality is a deeply personal thing that can look however I want it to. I now consider myself to be a very spiritual person and struggle to imagine myself at a time when I wasn't.

The Immersion trip was one of the most powerful experiences I have ever had. I felt graced by the opportunity to learn from these people and have mutual support. The experience challenged me to consider what is and isn’t important in my own life.

Did anything else about that trip surprise you or affect you?

Yes, the vulnerability of humanity that I encountered on my trip. I believe that most of what keeps us apart in this world is not rooted in things like religion, language, culture, but instead in a refusal to acknowledge what makes us commonly human: our common struggles and pain, and our common understandings of beauty. I have faith that the day we choose to look pain straight in the eye - to know it within ourselves and within each other - is the day we will have the capacity to see greater beauty in our world, particularly in those who are "different" than us, those who are too often seen as ugly. For me, this is a pillar that supports the work that I do and seek to do in my life, and one that has its roots in my initial immersion to El Salvador.

In what other ways have you been involved in the Ignatian Center?

I began working in the ICJE’s Thriving Neighbors program as a student assistant my sophomore year and continue to work there now. During the summer before my senior year, I was a Jean Donovan Fellow and worked locally with the Thriving Neighbors Initiative and CET (Center for Employment Training / Immigration and Citizenship Program). This coming Spring Semester I will be leading the Arizona Boarder Immersion trip.

How do you plan to use your experiences with the Ignatian Center in your future vocation?

After graduating, I plan to go to graduate school to study Public Policy and/or Nonprofit Management. To qualify for grad school, I have to first work 2 years doing community service work. My hope is to ultimately work in Public Policy within a community, like with an advocacy organization. I want to stay connected in the community.

Why did you choose to do your Jean Donovan Fellowship locally?

I had two reasons for doing my fellowship locally. I had just studied abroad for 2 quarters so I was anxious to reconnect locally. Also, I felt called to use my experiences on that study abroad trip to look more closely at social justice issues within my own community.

How did that fellowship experience affect you?

It made me recognize the human side of the community. When looking at a situation or issue, we tend to dehumanize it, but this experience of working closely with the students and their parents has given me a different lens to see them.

November Newsletter, Fall2017