Eight students spent the weekend of March 4-6 in downtown Cincinnati serving those in need in as part of the annual Urban Plunge.
"This mission trip is less focused on service and is more focused on student interaction with the poor," explained chaperone and CJ's Director of Admissions, Brett Chmiel '02. "Students live in solidarity with the poor. They gain an understanding of the social injustices and hardships that the poor face each day. They connect to the heart of the poor and their experience allows them to reflect on the importance of their own struggles and how each person deserves to live with dignity and respect."
The group left CJ on Friday morning and went to St. Vincent de Paul to serve meals and help people in need through the food pantry. Later in the day, students walked through the inner west side of Cincinnati and Over-The-Rhine to meet with residents and learn more about their community.
"My favorite experience on the Urban Plunge was walking around the neighborhood, talking to people on the streets and listening to their views and opinions on the city and its changes," shared Andrew Buchanan '18. "Everyone who we talked to over the weekend had their own unique story and it was incredible to listen to them."
Chaperone and CJ counselor Jama Badinghaus added, "My favorite part of the weekend was witnessing the humility of those who work everyday to serve those who many would classify as 'the least among us.' There was an undeniable holiness that radiated from those who are intentionally feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the ill, visiting those in prison, and sheltering the homeless on a daily basis. In this Jubilee of Mercy. their work is especially inspiring and is a wonderful reminder of our call as Christians to care for all of our sisters and brothers."
On Friday, students also participated in a simulation called the Kroger SNAP (supplemental nutrition assistance program) challenge.
"We were given a small amount of money to shop and make a meal for everyone," said Jordan Thomasson '16. "It was a poverty simulation, so we were given the same amount as someone who is struggling would have."
Mo Zopff '16 added, "I was able to experience what it's like to go grocery shopping for a certain amount of people with a certain amount of money."
"Students took the experience very seriously," noted Chmiel. "They were commended greatly by St. Vincent De Paul staff for their work and attitude. They did a wonderful job buying into the experience of living in solidarity with the poor."
On Saturday, the group held two prayer services, took a tour of the Mary Magdalen House, and had dinner with the homeless at the Center for Respite Care. On Sunday, the group attended Mass at St. Joseph Catholic Church and had lunch with church parishioners before heading back to Dayton.
"I think Urban Plunge is a great way to learn about poverty and homelessness," said Zopff. " I learned a lot about poverty and homelessness through the stories and experiences of others, the challenges or games we did, group discussions, quiet reflection, and prayer."
Buchanan added, "I experienced firsthand the poverty in Cincinnati. You can listen about poverty in a presentation but it's completely different to be out there on the streets, in their homes and talking to them face to face."
"The Urban Plunge allows students to ask questions about how to combat issues of justice in our communities in a way that is very tangible as the issues are relevant to the local community and the region," noted Badinghaus. "The experience is guided by professionals who work with the people in the community. The experience is an immersion into the culture of poverty and an experience of growing in understanding of our relationship with those individuals more than it is focused on providing short-term service to a population. The weekend provided a deep spirit of walking with people rather than providing for people."
Thomasson offered this to students interested in attending the mission trip next year, "If you are considering going on Urban Plunge you should most definitely go! The trip is not like other retreats and you'll have an amazing experience."
Photos Courtesy: Mo Zopff
Update: The Special Ops Club placed third in the Mini-Urban Challenge on Saturday, March 5. Congratulations!
The competition challenges high school students to design and program a LEGO Mindstorms EV3 robotic vehicle to navigate through a mini-urban city constructed of large foam floor tiles all through computer programming. An engineering notebook and oral presentation with PowerPoint are also scored competition elements.
"Three alumni from across generations, John Grismer '70, Matt Mize '98 and Steven Jennison '12 were very generous with their time, talent and treasure, to make this possible," said CJ STEMM Coordinator Meg Draeger.
"A group of us from CJ participated in this challenge in 2012 and it's funny because I see the group doing a lot of the same things I did," noted Jennison.
There are five regional Mini-Urban Challenge competitions around the U.S., with the local Dayton competition primarily sponsored and facilitated by the Air Force Research Laboratory. CJ is one of six teams competing in the local competition. The first and second place winning teams from each regional competition will be eligible to compete in the national competition in Florida in May.
"It would be great if we could go to nationals," said Special Ops Club member Michael Zopff '17.
This will be the fourth year a CJ team has participated in the Mini-Urban Challenge. Teamwork is critical in order to prepare for the competition. Students participating this year are Marc Guiselin '17, Alex Jennison '16, Aaron Meixner '19, Regan Monigan '19, Cameron Woodard '16, and Zopff. The students came to the Spec Ops Club with varying levels of prior computer programming knowledge, and have learned a lot throughout the year.
The Spec Ops Club meets in the engineering lab, the St. Barbara room 235, Thursdays after school. Other activities of the club include events during annual Computer Science Education Week and the Hour of Code in December. All CJ students are encouraged to attend the Mini-Urban Challenge on Saturday, March 5 to cheer our team on. To see what the Special Ops Club is all about, join the group on a Thursday after school in the engineering lab beginning March 10.
Contributing Writer: Meg Draeger
Update: The results from the indoor state track and field competition on Saturday, March 5 were:
- Christian Wortham: third in the triple jump (40'11.50") and 13th in the long jump (19'10")
- Ariel Caffee: eighth in the 400 meter dash (1:00.43, ran her best time of the year).
- Olivia Brown: 12th in weight throw (37'10") and threw 30'10" in shot put
- Micaela Colbert, Camille Stevenson, Danielle Lewis and Lauren Pegues: fifth in the 4x200 relay (1:48.02, won their heat and dropped 5 seconds in time).
Great job by all our state contendors!
Road to State: "The possibilities are exciting and we look for big things.”
Indoor Track Head Coach Jerry Puckett was enthusiastic about the seven track members representing CJ at the state indoor track competition on Saturday, March 5.
“We are young and have a big team this year,” Puckett added. “This group that is going to state has gotten better and better.”
The members going to the state competition are:
- Olivia Brown ’16 (shot put and weight throw)
- Ariel Caffee ’16 (400 meter dash)
- Micaela Colbert ‘18, Camille Stevenson ‘16, Danielle Lewis ‘17 and Lauren Pegues ‘17 (4 x 200 relay)
- Christian Wortham ’16 (long jump and triple jump)
“I love the fact that my teammates who are young get to experience this,” Caffee, who is returning to state for a third year in a row, noted. “I was hurt my freshman year so I didn’t get to run. I think it’s good that younger students are getting to run at state.”
Wortham, who is ranked first in the state for triple jump (43 feet 8 ¾ inches,) is going to state for the first time.
“We all try so hard and have been practicing a lot,” Wortham said. “It’s all been leading up to Saturday. I hope we each place top eight in each of our events and win as a team because I feel we can.”
Coach James Perry, Sr. has been working with Wortham and shared, “He’s a hard working young man and takes instruction very well. He is versatile and can do more than one thing.”
Puckett added, “They all work hard and have been fun to coach, and that’s what you want to see.”
What does it mean to be a man? Seniors Mike Carper, Graham Curry, Isaiah Gates and Deter Spees looked into high school students and society's thoughts about that statement for their Senior Capstone Project.
"High school is a time when people discover themselves and attempt to define themselves, often looking to their peers' actions to help them do so," Carper explained. "During this time, it is crucial to have positive influences. Our group wants to be a source of positive influence for high school students as they discover who they want to be."
"I feel that in our society today, there is too much emphasis on what being a man isn't," added Curry. "Being a man is not having the largest muscles, getting the hottest girls, and being dominant in every way. Being a man is not living in ignorance with the notion that you will always be in charge. Being a man is not being fearless, invincible, and stubborn. I've seen the transition from grade school to high school and the effect that stereotypes have on young people. This could even continue to happen in the transition from high school to college. I've always had these thoughts, but what pushed me to incorporate these ideas into a project with my peers was a previous group's Capstone from last year, encouraging us to continue their project; so we have, as this is a message that must be shared and repeated in order to reach as many people as possible."
On Wednesday, March 2, the group presented their message about the meaning of masculinity to sophomores and juniors at Carroll High School.
"We wanted to see their reactions to this topic because at a Catholic school, you're taught about Christian morals and the Christian lifestyle," Spees shared. "We wanted to see what kind of lifestyles they're leading."
In the presentation, the group asked the students to take a survey about what they thought masculinity meant to them.
"We also had the online definition of masculinity and then we shared the actual definition of masculinity," Spees noted. "So the students saw the difference between the real definition and the one everyone thinks about."
The group's presentation was not only given to male students, but females as well.
"When we asked about the survey, one of the male students in the class described a man who he thought was masculine because the man lifts weights and goes to the gym," Curry explained. "But one of the girls talked about famous rappers and singers who she thought were masculine, so it was interesting to see the comparison."
Carper added, "We hope the students realize the misconceptions of masculinity that the media and our culture often convey, and that they can focus more on truly bettering themselves than trying to convey an image that they believe their peers will accept."