SJ4SA students learn about the history of community murals from San Anto Cultural Arts staff. Photo courtesy of Vincent Perez.
This last spring marked the second year of the Social Justice for San Antonio (SJ4SA) program at UTSA. The program is offered through the Student Leadership Center (SLC), which focuses on exposing UTSA students to real issues that impact local communities.
SJ4SA is a program led, by and for stu-dent leaders. Through the Introduction to Leadership course, youth leaders identify and research chronic problems that San Antonio residents face today. With guidance from Eliot Howard, course professor and SLC associate director, students conduct qualitative research on societal issues and organize a social justice field trip.
"This is an invaluable outside of the class-room experience for students," said Vincent Perales, program coordinator for the Student Leadership Center. "Since the beginning of the course, students team-up to figure out insights to the root causes of these problems, while identifying resources, ideas and points of contact that can help them take action."
Students interact with MOVE San Antonio staff.
Last April, a total of 18 students joined the field trip and visited five different agencies. First, students visited MOVE San Antonio, a non-partisan organization that promotes millennial voter registration and turnout. Students learned how other UTSA alumni and current students use community organizing and activism to give a strong political voice to young people.
After lunch, students stopped by the South-west Workers' Union, a nonprofit fighting for worker rights, environmental justice and com-munity empowerment. Students participated in a group exercise where they learned about their own privilege and how to use it to uplift others. Students also received information on building sustainable community gardens for low-income families in the Southside of San Antonio.
The next stop was Heaven for Hope, where students learned about collaboration efforts between public and private institutions to pro-vide housing security for San Antonio families.
Students set out outcomes before they depart to the SJ4SA field trip. Photos courtesy of Vincent Perez.
Finally, students went back home to the UTSA Main Campus, where they celebrated the success of the Roadrunner Food Pantry. Last semester students led an awareness campaign about food insecurity, as a result the food pantry was established. Donated canned food, hygiene products and clothing items are avail-able for any students in need. The food pantry is opened seven days a week with special hours on the weekends.
In total, SJ4SA has impacted 30 students in the last two years. This one-hour credit course is open to all student classifications and it is usually offered in the fall semester.
Deja Bertrand, a sophomore psychology major and SJ4SA participant said, "Visiting Haven for Hope, showed us the lives of people that are currently experiencing homelessness. We got to see where they live and what they eat. It made me grateful for the things that I have."VISIT WEBSITE
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