Political Organizing @ Sacred Heart, SCU & beyond

I had the honor and privilege to work at Sacred Heart Community Service in San Jose, CA for the past eight weeks. This was possible due to the Jean Donovan and LEAD Koret Fellowships. My experience at Sacred Heart was eye-opening and overall great, as I met incredible individuals, and was fortunate enough to do insightful, meaningful work centered around social justice issues with a specific focus on immigration organizing work with the community I grew up in. I wanted to give a special thank you to the Policy & Organizing Department as they took me in and they quickly became part of my home this summer as I was welcomed with open arms from the very beginning. If I am being completely honest, I had no idea what I was going into when I was starting my fellowship but I had a very pleasant surprise. I expected to do more observing than hands-on work, and also have more limitations to what I could do due to me being a new intern that had a small amount of experience with organizing work. In reality, my supervisors, Rosa & Eunice, helped me develop weekly action plans where I would help lead components of the department’s work with their support but with room for me to grow and learn. I was not excluded from department meetings, planning, regional trainings, coalition building with other organizations that was done during my time there. I was allowed the space to ask the thousands of questions I had about what was being discussed in the previous meeting. It was not only encouraged but a norm to regularly meet with supervisors so I can further understand the work we are doing. I feel that my supervisors did a very good job of allowing to do things on my own while also overlooking my work. Since Sacred Heart is well connected with other regional organizations and local government, I was able to meet plenty of advocates, organizers, and representatives that do all sorts of work relating to immigration justice. I even had the opportunity to travel to Cleveland, Ohio this summer for the Ignatian Solidarity Network’s Immigration Justice Summit where I connected and learned with students from all over the country and from all backgrounds who are passionate about immigration justice issues. We were taught how to organize and battle social issues on our college campuses.
All this was eye-opening to me as I have experienced local grass-root organizing and non-profit work first hand. It has changed my perspective on political advocacy because I was exposed to the realm of organizing I had not seen before. I now understand how much more intricate this kind of work is. I see the importance of having set objectives and identifying your targets when organizing a rally or demonstration that is not only bringing awareness to the issues being advocated but also have tangible goals. When you are a political organizer the most important part of your work is not done behind your computer screen but reaching out in your community raising awareness, getting people involved to take action, and to bring them to hope that through unity, we can overcome and accomplish. My last week at Sacred Heart I developed my own action plan on how to implement what I learned into my future work. I believe that there are many ways in which organizations at SCU can connect with local organizations on social justice issues that affect communities all over the country. I know I can utilize the various skills I absorbed throughout my time at Sacred Heart to create unity and take action on these issues as well as inform and empower people. An important lesson Eunice taught me was that our work should empower community members with knowledge, passion, and resources so they can become leaders and truly lead events, projects and actions with others from the community on their own eventually without our guidance. Political organizing can be done by anyone and anywhere. Now it is time to get to work at Santa Clara, we have our own issues to fix.

Javier Ortega

 

 

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