Recognizing that we must have the competence to see before we can create a more humane and just society.
Social Justice Site Visits provide opportunities for students in their junior year to learn about injustices that affect our community and the social services that are responding. We meet with organizations in Ohio City including the West Side Catholic Center, Malachi House, the Cleveland Catholic Worker, the May Dugan Center, and others.

This not only helps to prepare students for the Praxis Project but also gives them ideas of places to serve for their graduation requirement.

List of 4 frequently asked questions.

  • Q. What are social justice site visits?

    The Social Justice Site Visits program that is part of our 11th grade Theology curriculum. Formerly known as Urban Plunges, the purpose of these site visits is to help students see the scope of the impactful social justice work that happens all over the area. This helps them gain a sense of who to contact for interviews and service opportunities when they dive in to the Praxis project. The Praxis project carries through the entire second semester theology curriculum, in which students focus on an injustice in groups of 5-6 and write research papers, conduct interviews, do a service project, and present a video as their course final.
  • Q. How were places to visit chosen?

    The visits are selected for a variety of reasons. We aim to visit organizations that are somewhat familiar with programming for high schoolers so that it’s not too much of a burden for them to put together an informative 45-minute visit. Also, we reach out to many organizations that we have partnered with in the past for various reasons, and individuals in these organizations that we have personal connections to.
  • Q. Where are they visiting? Who are they meeting? What will they be doing on the trip?

    Each year, we select a wide variety of local service organizations to learn about what they do and also to gain a better idea of the injustices people experience in Cleveland and how those injustices are addressed. After learning more about these programs, students often later do volunteer work with these organizations.  We visit a variety of sites near Gilmour and also downtown, including Bellfaire JCB, Beech Brook, the West Side Catholic Center, Malachi House, and Catholic Charities Migration & Refugee Services. All students have the opportunity to see a variety of sites - two sites on each trip for a total of four sites.
  • Q. What will students learn? What does Gilmour want students to get out of this?

    During second semester of junior theology, we learn about the Church’s teachings on social justice. These teachings come from the essential sources of our faith: Scripture (the Bible), and Tradition (Papal letters and encyclicals, the Catechism, etc.). Our time in the classroom is mainly spent understanding the theological foundations of this work and the church teachings on some of the major injustices that affect the global community. By visiting these sites, students get to see the church teachings in action. Learning specific stories about social justice work brings the key principles of Catholic Social Teaching to life in ways that create and build upon meaningful human connection. The hope is that students will feel inspired by the amazing work that goes around all over our city, see the many individuals who are able to provide perspectives for their Praxis project, and see that social justice is a living, breathing value of the city of Cleveland and not just something we read about in books.


List of 6 items.

  • Beech Brook

    I really liked hearing about the importance of relationships and when Mr. Royer talked about the connections he made, it made me think about how I can get involved with social justice. I agreed when he said that the relationships you make are so important to how you feel on a day to day basis. Something I learned that I didn’t know before is that Beech Brook was one of the first organizations in the country to provide family therapy. I think family therapy is essential for families who are going through hard times and I think it is super cool that it happened right here in Pepper Pike. This visit helped me better understand social justice because it opened my eyes up to the importance of helping young children. Mental health problems affect people of all ages and it is important to help children who struggle and help them grow into adults
    The vast majority of these people they work with are in poverty and are taking part in this program due to injustices in the public school system, unsafe neighborhoods, and unjust wages and working conditions.  These people are struggling to make ends meet which affects their overall well-being.  I was very surprised to hear that 85% of the people they work with are not mentally-ill but solely struggling with social issues that cause them to seek guidance.  I now understand the importance of the relationships formed between the people of Beech Brook and the people they are helping. 
    From this, I learned that doing an act of social justice does not necessarily mean that you have to do something super big for a lot of people. Sometimes social justice can be done for just a single person in your life, even with something as simple as not giving up on someone struggling. I believe that a lot of what Mr. Royer was trying to get across was that some people are just in need of a voice or support. One of the things he said was that the problem was not that the patients “were not inherently mentally ill” and were struggling due to a social problem. Before assuming something about someone we need to be in their own shoes, meaning we cannot always know what exactly they’re struggling with but the best way to do them justice is to be a support. 
    After the presentation from Mr. Royer, I was eager to learn more about this organization because I thought it was very impactful to our local community in particular, so I went to their website. They are celebrating their 40th anniversary in April, and they are looking to expand to the east side to help even more children and families. In the presentation, Royer said, “We need to change the systems that are trapping these families.” This told me that the people at Beech Brook went beyond just wanting a temporary fix. The idea that they wanted to change the problems affecting the people, rather than just the people affected by the problems in the world, was a great message to be sending.
  • Catholic Charities

    I learned that immigrants often are seeking refuge from things like disaster, famine, poverty, war, and political oppression.  I also learned that this was not something that just happened in America, but all over the world as well.  This opened my eyes to the true reason why people flee their homes and played on my emotions a little bit during the talk.  This helped me better understand what social justice is because the speaker made it his mission and vocation to serve and help these people who are in a crisis that he doesn't even know.  This inspired me to incorporate more social justice into my life because I also want to be a good person and help people just like the speaker.  I felt challenged by this message to try and do more good for these people who are suffering but I had a hard time trying to understand why.  Why should we help these people who are so far away and have their own problems that have nothing to do with us.  I realized that it wasn’t about that but it was about helping all people because we are all children of God.  I would like to know more about how we could help with this issue and get involved.
    The “visit” with Catholic Charities Migration/Refugee Services was very eye opening because it gave me awareness to the issue of refugees and who are people who fled their home out of fear of persecution. This was an issue that I knew was present, however, I didn’t know that it was to effecting a large amount of people. The fact that there are 79.5 million forcibly displaced people worldwide makes me wonder why countries like the United States who clearly have enough resources to help these people don’t do more. Only 27,500 of these people have been settled in the United States, and the help that they are getting doesn’t properly allow them to survive in a culture completely different then what they are used to.
    Many people disagree with taking in immigrants and refugees so it is comforting to know that there are people out there who are compassionate for others and have respect for human life. Everyone deserves to be treated equally and just because some people have advantages based on their social status, financial stability and geographic location doesn’t mean that others should suffer. Yes not everything can be completely fair but it angers me when I see innocent people struggling when they haven't even received a fair chance at life. The Catholic Charities and Migration/Refugee Services are serving justice to these people by giving them more opportunities through teaching them to read and write, providing food, shelter, and water. 
  • IRTF

    Something new that I learned is that most of my clothes are made in unsafe situations. The working conditions are usually really bad and children could possibly be making them as well. This visit helped me better understand what social justice is by opening up my eyes to the fact that people in other countries are still working in dangerous factories and we just do not pay attention to it. They also made me think about purchasing more fair trade products so I can support the people making the goods in other countries. ... All in all, I learned so much about making sure workers are making just wages and working in stable conditions. I will absolutely be sure to buy more fair trade products. 
    The IRTF meeting was incredibly moving and insightful. I learned a great amount about how things are made and what we can do to help the movement improve working conditions. One interesting thing I learned is that sometimes we don’t think about where things are coming from. The example that they used that struck me the most was the banana example. Bananas are grown in places like south america. We get bananas so cheap but how. …  Overall, the people that are involved with getting us our bananas are sometimes underpaid and overworked just like how people in sweatshops make clothes for us. We need to be more conscious of where we get our clothes and how they were made. 
    This organization also works to transform the mission of charity to one of solidarity, which is not about giving, rather, getting out of the way and letting people take control of their lives. By understanding what we have done and what people need, we can slowly repaired our damaged nation. This visit helped me understand social justice because the IRTF supports fair trade, which enables people to determine their destinies, and a democracy, which gives all citizens a voice and helps them stay engaged with their country. For example, IRTF believes that we should have demorcatic practices in things that take up most of our time such as school and work. There ought to be worker ownership, that way everyone involved in work can determine the wages for their labor rather than letting the boss take all of the money. This principles will give people value and human dignity. It will help us recognize the people such as farmers and sellers who help us survive. Not to mention, it will give each citizen, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Lastly, something that confused me was why empires all over the world have committed genocide and extracted resources from countries people are trying to flee from. This will not attract people to the nation, and foreign policies will instill a fear for safety. This exploitation travels into the clothing business, there is child labor, wage theft, and brutal hours for workers. Finally, I am confused why the US launched multinational fruit companies the hired the military to terrorize communities to get access to the market. The profits made from bananas was seen as a threat; capitalism and advertising make us distant from resources we need to survive. Why is there so much competition in the global economy. I would like to know more about these socially unjust topics. 
    We visited IRTF, and it was interesting to hear about them and their overall mission.  It was surprising to see how much of our stuff comes from exploited people who make the resources we use.  I never thought about this before, and this is why fair trade is so important and a mission of IRTF.  IRTF hopes to bring people together in solidarity to help those in Central America.  Something I did not know before was there is a difference between solidarity and charity.  One difference is charity decides what the area needs and gives it to them.  Solidarity believes that an area best knows what they need and what and who should provide it to them.  This is more of the belief that IRTF centers around.  They better help me understand social justice, as a huge message of their organization is to break the cycle of oppression.  Social justice calls us to see the problems that occur in the world and not to turn away from them, being selfish.  An example given was what we purchase and use can have a negative impact on our Earth and others.  Instead of acting like our planet and labor are disposable, we must be empathetic and see the problem with possessing the latter perspective.
  • Malachi House

    I learned that it is important to care for all people of the community and that any little thing can be seen as life changing. Members of the house are there not only to physically support these people in need of help, but they are also there to be a mental support system and spiritual guidance. Visiting malachi house helps me better understand what social justice is because their work focuses on helping people that can not always support themselves at the hardest time in their life. They support the people who are close to death and need love and others around them so they don't feel alone in the difficult hours. They love people regardless of the past and no matter how they are seen by their families. I was challenged to hear that they were given opportunities to help people, care and get to know them, and then see them pass. I believe that would be very difficult and is very hard to hear. I am thankful that there are people in our community that are giving back and trying to make the community better. It also closely aligns with the corporal works of mercy.  
    This visit was my favorite because Mrs. Olsen was very personable and even had a virtual tour of the Malachi House to walk us through.  It felt like we were walking through the house.  This organization is a religious ministry that is a home for the dying poor.  However, you do not have to be Catholic to live there.  The people classified in the dying poor are under hospice care and have less than 6 months to live. The Malachi house becomes their family.  The volunteers and staff at the house feed, love, and care for the dying poor.  I did not know that the organization started off with 6 beds and soon grew in to a much more established living space.  Mrs. Olsen told us that the first people to live there Father Paul pulled off the streets and these people most likely were ill with AIDS.  This visit helped me better understand what social justice is because the elderly need to be cared for, especially the dying poor who have little resources to sustain their health. Malachi house aligns with the corporal works of mercy, especially focusing on visiting the sick. I am astonished by  the relationships Mrs. Olsen made with these people in such a short  time. I personally think the work she does is amazing although I do not know if I would be able to take on this position because it would be so hard to see the people I  care for pass away so quickly. It takes a special person to have this job. When someone passes away, everyone in the house gathers around that person’s bed to pray.  They place a rose and a white heart shaped pillow on the bed in remembrance.  I think this is so beautiful.
    The Malachi House is the most hospitable environment you can think of as they offer food, bedding, and a family for no cost to the dying poor. During my everyday life I try to make someone else's day better but the Malachi House takes that statement to another level as they make their guests last 6 months of their life the best it can be. I don't think I could ever handle working at Malachi House as I feel I would make a great relationship with every guest and would be very upset when they passed, Malachi House focuses on giving those who are sick and poor family to have by their side when they die. It also stood out to me the fact that they are constantly investing all money donated back into the house to make their job of caring for their guests easier. I believe this to be the ultimate form of social justice as one house offers bedding, food, and family to those who have no of those things.
  • Providence House

    Natalie Leek, who represented Providence House, expressed how they serve over three hundred children and families every year. They house, feed and supply the children with medical treatment. They give them the education to prevent them from being registered into the foster care system. This organization allows for the minority families to have a chance to be reunited with their children and helps parents to become financially stable without having to deal with the  concerns of the child at the moment. They support the parents medically, physically, emotionally, or financially. They supply parent education classes, and before returning children to their homes; they give wellness checks and see if the home is in proper condition to hold the child. What I learned from this meeting is that it is not an inner-city issue, but it is everywhere.  The foster care system causes trauma, and by preventing the children from going into the system, they are saving the government nine million dollars a year. Also, I learned that Cleveland, Ohio is #1 in children poverty and #2 in infant mortality, meaning that many children are dying every minute. This visit helped me acknowledge that social justice is about having equality and allowing for one to achieve the goals that they were once at a disadvantage for, like how due to laws and systems, when families try to leave poverty, it disqualifies them from their health benefits, making them lose their money and become more poverty-stricken. Furthermore, it demonstrates that voices of the disadvantaged people are being trapped due to laws and systems, and we,  as people, need to be those voices and help. I was challenged to evaluate myself and my standards because I never knew any of this. I understood that there were injustices, but never what they were and how to address them. The Providence House gave me the idea that school needs to not be a place of comfort but of uncomfortableness, meaning that these issues need to be addressed in schools more prominently and need to promote these organizations by giving supplies and having volunteer opportunities. 
    My idea of social justice has changed. Before i believed that social justice was only pertaining to when someone commits a crime and the punishment is justly deserved. Now my viewpoint is much different as I see justice pertaining to all aspects of life. Everyone deserves to have a home and to be safe. Providence house has shown me that justice is served in different ways. The families who take housing with Providence House have been emotionally, mentally and physically harmed in some way and deserve to have a place where they feel safe, justice is served.
    From what I got out of it, I think that it really reaches down into the roots of the problem of why the parents need to have their kids taken care of, not just taking the kids and letting the parents figure it out. I learned that a part of the problem is that daycare only allows people to leave their children if they have worked for 30 days, which sometimes is not possible as a single parent. Near the end of the talk when she talked about how even if people are not using Providence House services, they will still help them figure things out and get them into a good spot. To me, it seems like such a selfless service and helps so many people. It helped me learn that social justice focuses on the social part, and reaches into the community. In addition, I thought that justice was more about discipline, however, I learned that it is doing what is right for the people and being selfless to make someone else’s life better.
  • Sisters of Charity

    This was a very fulfilling, educational zoom event. I learned about the severity of homelessness within families, including adults and children. I also learned how the Sisters of Charity Foundation work together with other organizations to fund developments for the homelessness. Their mission is to improve the lives of families, woman, and children suffering homelessness. The homeless are without the basic needs of housing, education, employment, and healthcare; SOCF works to provide funding towards organizations to aid the suffering with these basic needs. They provide the aid of housing, taking away the challenging regimes to pass within other locations (example being certain crimes, felonies). Considering the following, SOCF collaborate with other organizations/foundations for the betterment of suffering/homeless within the community (CLE, Cuyahoga, Etc.)
    I learned that there are many contributing foundations working towards the goal of ending homelessness and family suffrage. Also, I learned that the SOCF has an annual budget of $450, 000. With the help of other donors, they are able to contribute to more long-lasting organizations for building meaningful developments. Regarding social justice, I learned that we need speakers from and on behalf of the suffering to speak up for the needs of the suffering. Through building relationships, speaking up, and going to a higher power like the state or city, these problems can decrease for the greater good. We need to continue to speak up and research our way to a safe, meaningful community among all.
    I enjoyed listening to Angela speak on homelessness and what this organization does to help. I was surprised when she mentioned that it is possible to eliminate all homelessness. Homelessness, to me, is a scary topic to think about because I always feel like there is nothing I can do to help since there are so many people in the world who don’t have a home. This zoom made me understand what social justice is a little better because every person deserves to have a home. Social justice reminds me that a person who maybe does not have a home or enough food has the same rights as a person who has a huge house and an abundance of food. Everyone is equal and we should give back to enable everyone to have a shelter because they deserves one just as much as we do.  
    One thing that stood out to me was the two feet in action image. I liked how they divided up charity and social justice, because they are different things that rely on each other. This idea helped me understand more about what social justice is; it is not just donating money or time, but it is also determination, legal battles, and persistence to help people that you do not even know. The speaker said that the only way their vision will succeed is if they find “authentic partnership and commitment to a shared goal.” It seems that it is essential to trust partners, investors, and the people you are serving; because if you do not trust the underserved, there is no way you can reliably fix the issues. I thought it was generous that the foundation helps people unconditionally, it gives people a second chance. They will help you no matter what situation you are in.
An independent, Catholic, coed, day and boarding school in the Holy Cross tradition. Toddler-Grade 12.