On the first Friday of October I met at the Chapel steps to catch a bus to camp Wrightwood, just a mere 45 minutes north of San Bernardino. There were nearly 50 of us all together, united for a common cause: our interest and passion for social justice. We were meeting for the first annual Students Participating and Advancing Revolutionary Change (SPARC) retreat, which was launched by the office for Campus Diversity and Inclusion (CDI).
As a very new program, the true purpose of SPARC is still being ironed out.
Sophomore Stephanie Carmona, a student leader of the program who took part in planning the activities and workshops, explains what she feels the purpose of SPARC is.
“To have discussions about topics that need to be talked about such as race, gender, sexuality-things that make people feel uncomfortable.”
During the retreat, we had many discussions in which we worked through all of the different aspects of our society and culture and got to reveal and think about our own identities together.
Associate Director of CDI and one of the faculty facilitators, Zack Ritter believes that “SPARC was a way to bring people together, to galvanize people, and to use positive energy that is gained from young people coming together to talk about big ideas to actually change things on campus”.
Both students and faculty believe that this new program is an important way to get those interested in issues like race, class and gender to join together and learn from one another.
Sophomore Dominic Ravina believes that SPARC can help “make a positive change on our campus, as well as the broader community.”
The retreat was two days long. During this time students participated in different activities and workshops where topics of discussion spanned from micro-aggressions and identity to capitalism and oppression. Our first activity was an identity checklist. Each student was given a form with different aspects of identity listed on the left such as “religion” and “race” and then asked to rate how often they think about and deal with these aspects in their lives. The rating scale spanned from “every day” to “never.” This activity concluded with an opportunity for people to share their answers and talk about what parts of their identities are most important.
The group was also given downtime to recuperate from the more intense sessions. This time was spent getting to know one another and enjoy the cool forest weather.
Ritter says that it was these fun moments between students that were most impactful:
“Students got to be silly with each other, blow glitter in each other’s faces, take hikes and joke around-within that joking around there was serious reflections where people were talking about their own identity and family background and that’s how societal change happens. It’s not always from a textbook but from listening to one another. From making real human connections with one another you change and you become somebody different because all the pieces from someone else start going on to the lego block of who you are and you become an enriched person because of that.”
The professional staff of CDI—which includes Ritter, Associate Dean for CDI Leela Madhavarau, First Generation Student Programs Coordinator Priscilla Moreno, and Residence Hall Director Reggie Robles—created the SPARC retreat and are very focused on leaving the future of SPARC up to the students. The goal is to have future retreats be completely student run and to also form a class where both past and present attendees can come together and continue to work on and discuss the issues and ideas brought up during the retreat.
Senior Jessica Garcia believes that SPARC can help “students recognize and comprehend social issues so that they can become the changes that they want to see in the world.”
Those who are interested in broadening their scope of all things related to social justice and activism should look out for a possible SPARC-related class next semester, can stop by CDI to learn about getting involved, and also think about signing up for the retreat next Fall. It is easy to get involved, and the retreat is free for students and only takes one quick application on URCONNECT to sign up.
[Disclaimer: Bre Modisett was a student participant in the SPARC retreat.]