Ignacio Volunteers returns to campus post-pandemic

ignacio volunteers

Courtesy of Cheyenne Williams

Criminal justice senior Cheyenne Williams looks at an art exhibit. She worked with Ignacio Volunteers in fall 2019.

The Ignacio Volunteers program, often referred to as “Iggy Vols,” is back on campus after a hiatus that began in the spring 2020 semester due to the pandemic.

After time away, University Minister for Social Justice and Immersions Jacob DeRusha is looking forward to reaffirming Loyola’s Jesuit values and community building.

“The Jesuit buzzword is ‘with and for others.’ During that time, we weren’t able to be with others as much,” DeRusha said. “We weren’t able to immerse ourselves in cultures …so that we can better learn how to be ‘for others.”

To continue learning how to be “for others,” Iggy Vols is planning a New Orleans Urban Immersion to kick things off next semester from May 16-21, 2022. The trip will focus on systemic racism, building community, spirituality, and reflection.

“Students can use this information, what we’re experiencing, who we’re meeting, (and) things we’re learning beyond our time at Loyola to make a greater difference in the world,” said DeRusha.

This year marks DeRusha’s first year as a staff member for Iggy Vols, but the New Orleans Urban Immersion will be his second volunteer trip with the program.

DeRusha, a former undergraduate student at Loyola, participated in an Iggy Vols immersion trip in 2016.

“I am excited to be leading and coordinating the New Orleans Iggy Vols program,” he said.

Student Government Association Vice President Tyler Sanchez said that his New Orleans immersion experience in spring 2019 was a productive way of learning about the city and seeing how historical context manifests itself into the city today.

“It was a lot of looking at the civil rights movement and how that played out down here,” Sanchez said. “It was looking at the different racial disparities from everything to the criminal justice system to things as simple as a graveyard where Black and Brown people could be buried in the city.”

Cheyenne Williams, a senior criminal justice student, went on a New Orleans immersion trip in fall 2019 to know more about the city she was living in.

“I wanted to learn more about the New Orleans area. I’m from California, and just coming from the West to the South, it was just totally a culture shock,” Williams said. “I really didn’t feel comfortable living in a city and I knew nothing about it.”

She helped clean a local cemetery, discussed Hurricane Katrina’s lasting impact on the city, and went court-watching at the criminal district court, which was her favorite part.

“I got to learn more about how New Orleans handles their justice system and the impact it has on the community,” Williams said. “If you go out of Uptown, it’s very different. You see a lot of crime, a lot of poverty, and then you see these people within the system, so it really opened up my eyes and made me want to pursue my career even more in criminal justice.”

Like Williams, Sanchez enjoyed learning more about the history of New Orleans. The Violet, Louisiana native said his immersion added context to his lived experience and to the experience he continues to go through today.

Sanchez valued the reflection aspect of the immersion as well.

“It was a lot of inward reflection on the part of each individual in the group and the group as a whole and figuring out how we lived in and played into those different systems that still impact Black and Brown people in New Orleans disproportionately,” he said.

The political science major encouraged future volunteers to be open to the learning process.

“If you’re not vulnerable, if you’re not truthful, it’s not going to be as impactful, and really, you’re not going to get the best experience that you could’ve out of that program,” Sanchez said.

Williams recommended that new volunteers take the experience in as best as they can.

“Have an open mind. It is new, especially if you’re not from New Orleans. It’s very eye-opening. It can get emotional just because you see a lot. It humbles you, really. Just have fun,” she said.

Students are required to fundraise for the immersion trips individually and in groups. According to DeRusha, students need to raise $450 each for the New Orleans Urban Immersion trip and they will stay in accommodations within the greater New Orleans area.

Student Life & Ministry will be hosting informational sessions for recruitment on Nov. 12 at 12:30 p.m. and on Nov. 30 at 6 p.m. in the Multicultural Center inside the Danna Center. Applications to volunteer will be available beginning Nov. 12.