Manuel JF Hernandez is an Immaculata High School theology teacher, tennis coach and organizer of the school's Social Justice Awareness Day, scheduled for 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Jan. 15.

Manuel JF Hernandez is an Immaculata High School theology teacher, tennis coach and organizer of the school's Social Justice Awareness Day, scheduled for 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Jan. 15.
The event will include presentations to students on social justice issues such as human trafficking and fair trade, as well as a speech by a Holocaust survivor.
Here, Hernandez discusses Social Justice Awareness Day and the impression educators hope it will make on students.

1. Manuel, what is Social Justice Awareness Day and why did Immaculata High School decide to host it? Who will be permitted to attend events?
"As defined by the Catholic Church, it is 'when (society) provides the conditions that allow associations or individuals to obtain what is their due, according to their nature and their vocation.'
"Social justice is linked to the common good and the exercise of authority (Catechism of the Catholic Church, CCC 1928). It is 'the defense of human dignity by ensuring that essential human needs are met and that essential human rights are protected for all people.'
"Our curriculum includes a course on Catholic Social Teaching, which the Conference of Catholic Bishops believes to be an essential course of instruction for our high school students as they prepare for college and their call to uphold the rights of all people and the common good.
"This is our second Social Justice Awareness Day — the first was in 2012 — and it is sponsored by our Student Ministry Team, made up of students from all four classes. We believe it is essential for our students to know what type of social issues and needs exist in our local community, the Kansas City, Kan., area, and in the world today, as well as be familiar with the agencies that provide services to people in need.
"The event for this year was initiated by our students, specifically Ellie Wolk, my lead student and member of our Student Ministry Team. The team is our planning and coordination group.
"The event is primarily for our students, especially the small group sessions, due to space, while a portion is open to parents and alumni, again because of our limited space and because it is intended for our student body.
"We want our parents, alumni and leadership to see what our kids are learning and being exposed to with regards to issues in the world today. I think having a few city officials attend portions of it as an awareness or influence for some future events might also be a consideration, but not yet addressed."

2. What are the subjects that will be featured and why were they chosen?
"The topics/speakers were a result of Ellie and the Student Ministry Team recalling our first SJA Day and what areas the students gave most significant feedback on.
"In addition, we also looked at availability of speakers and their specific topics. For example, the child of the Holocaust survivor and human trafficking were two areas that were high on our list, but we also note that every area we have represented this year is important.
"And, we also know there are many other issues/topics we would have liked, but were limited by time, space, and availability."
"Along with the two topics mentioned above, the other topics covered by speakers include social justice in the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kan., the death penalty, and fair trade."

3. How will the small group sessions work and who will the speakers be?
"There will be four small group sessions, and the student body will be divided into four groups of mixed grades, and they will rotate to all four sessions.
"After the small group sessions, we will then gather in the auditorium for the presentation by the child of the Holocaust survivor. The students will then go to lunch, have time for the displays in the gym, and then we will finish off with a celebration of the mass in the auditorium.
"The speakers are:
Ralph Hartwich, son of Eva Hartwich, of the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education in Overland Park.
Meaghan Fanning, of Ten Thousand Villages-Fair Trade Products, in Overland Park.
Bill Scholl, of the Office of Social Justice, Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.
Jude Huntz, chancellor for the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, to discuss the death penalty.
Jennifer Rapp, from the Office of the Attorney General under Pat Colloton, who will discuss the anti-human trafficking unit."

4. What information displays will be featured in the gym and how will they help raise awareness of the chosen topics?
"We have the following agencies and their representatives, each of which will be available to answer questions, while providing table displays of what their agency does and where:
Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas, Jennifer Walton.
Alliance Against Family Violence of Leavenworth, Sister Jane Albert Mehrens.
Birthright of Leavenworth, Margaret McNamee
Harvesters of Kansas City, Laura Marshall, community outreach coordinator for Ten Thousand VIllages-Fair Trade Products, and Karen Greenwood or representative.
Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children of Leavenworth, Kelly Meyer of Bethany Prison Ministry at U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kent Harrison of Unbound, formerly the Christian Foundation for Children, and Aging of Kansas City, Kan.
"The senior class, as part of their course on social teaching, will also be tasked to provide some displays of people who have made an impact in the area of social justice throughout history. These will be assigned the first day of school.
"I'm still attempting to reach a point of contact for the Student Ministry of the University of St. Mary; Kansans for Life of Lansing/Leavenworth; Catholic Relief Services, of Kansas City, Kan.; and the Leavenworth Police Department.
"We would certainly be open to other agencies who provide needs for (people) who might be interested in participating. We are also still learning who or what is available in our area, so I expect we have unintentionally missed some opportunities."

5. What does the school hope most people will take away from attending the talks?
"As a Catholic School, our goal is that students and adults will gain a deeper understanding of some of the many social issues there are and how they are called to become instruments of change in the world today.
"We all have a responsibility to become aware of the needs that exist, begin to think of ways to meet those needs, and to prepare themselves for potential actions they might take in the future.
"In addition, we want them all to be knowledgeable of the agencies that exist in their own communities, which provide proper support to specific needs that arise, in our own lives or in the lives of those around us.
"We are called to serve others as Christ calls us to do, especially as regards to meeting the needs of the poor and vulnerable, the sick and the lonely, the oppressed and the abused, who are in our midst."

— Rimsie McConiga