Jalan Carter ’21 takes a break from his Computer Science studies to spend every Monday afternoon surrounded by 5th-grade kids. He travels from the St. Edward’s campus to an income-restricted apartment complex, where an after-school program keeps kids supervised until their parents get home. He helps them with their homework and with weekly cooking lessons and generally serves as an older friend.
Growing up, Carter says, money was always tight, and he moved 15 times before coming to college. That’s why he volunteered to work with children in similar situations: “I just want to make their lives as easy as possible, because I know what they’re going through,” he says.
Carter is part of the Social Justice Living Learning Community, where students with shared interests live, study and hang out together after class. (“It helps students ‘find their people,’” says Kris Sloan, the professor who directs the LLC). Carter and the other members of the Social Justice LLC live on the same floor of Hunt/Le Mans Hall, take a weekly Social Justice seminar together, and participate in evening and weekend activities: watching movies with social justice themes (like “Get Out”), finding their way out of an escape room, and hiking at Wild Basin Creative Research Center. Instead of meeting in his office with students who have academic questions, Sloan spends time each week in the residence hall’s lounge. Students can ask questions about their assignments or just talk about their transition to college life — or the best act they saw at the Austin City Limits festival.
Sloan’s goal is for students to develop their own definition of social justice, which can include the topics they discuss in the seminar — like immigration, racism, toxic masculinity and socioeconomic disparities. “Our curriculum is guided by the Holy Cross mission to confront the critical issues of society and seek justice and peace,” Sloan says. “Social justice is at the heart of the Holy Cross mission.”
Carter chose the Social Justice LLC because he thinks his generation has the opportunity — and the responsibility — to make changes in the world. “Without change, there is no progress, and without progress, we will be unhappy with the world we live in,” he says. “I want to help people realize this.”
That’s why he volunteers every Monday. “If you want to make a change in the world, you have to be present and show up.”