Immersion Program

Bellarmine's immersion program reflects the important principle that “Jesuit education is world affirming1.

Our program embraces the Ignatian cornerstones of faith and justice as inspired by the Gospel call to love and serve our neighbor, especially the poor and marginalized.  Our goal—to form men and women for others who will dedicate their lives to living according to this pattern of service as inaugurated by Jesus Christ.

Immersion into the culture and daily reality of those living in other countries, or in other areas of the U.S., offers unique learning opportunities to the members of our Bellarmine community. It is through our contact with other people, in other cultures, that we can better prepare our students, and members of our community, to be “a new kind of person in a new kind of society1”. Through the immersion experience, a world in which each individual has the opportunity to be fully human and accepts the responsibility of promoting human development in others becomes possible.

The nature of immersion is transformative; we can enter into the daily reality of “the other” in such a deeply personal way so as to be changed by the experience. In the spirit of Ignatius, the immersion experience provides greater opportunity for this lived experience to not only be internalized but formalized into action that results in a more peaceful, more just, and more loving world.

1Go Forth and Teach, The Characteristics of Jesuit Education

Immersion Trips

Our program offers several different types of immersion experiences. While every immersion provides opportunities to learn about the daily living reality of people in other cultures and to witness different ways to be in the world today, each type of immersion trip has a unique focus and main purpose.

Solidarity Immersions

The purpose of our solidarity immersion trips is for students to develop an understanding of the daily reality of the poor and the context within which their poverty is rooted. With service to and direct experience with the poor, we can act to redress the causes of their poverty. It is hoped that students are called to a long-term response based on compassion, concern, and genuine caring for those with whom we regularly visit.

Service Immersions

Service immersion trips focus on specific work and service projects to benefit the poor. These immersion experiences raise to mind questions about the many structures that perpetuate the conditions of marginalization and suffering by others, especially the poor. Through them, however, the seeds of concern and compassion are sown, giving rise to a greater understanding of our responsibility to bring about change.

Urban and Rural Plunges

Occur throughout the school year; open to juniors and seniors

Bellarmine sponsors local urban and rural "plunges" several weekends throughout the school year. These immersion experiences offer participants the opportunity to understand the impact of poverty at the local level, to interact directly with the poor affected by this poverty, and to take action in response to what they have witnessed on their journey.

  • The urban plunge provides students with the opportunity to grapple with the issues related to homelessness in San Jose and San Francisco. Students meet with a number of different agencies that serve the homeless and provide service at soup kitchens.
  • The rural plunge takes students to Salinas for several days, where they come to better understand the struggles faced by migrant farm workers by working alongside them.

Appalachia Service Immersion

Occurs in the summer; open to rising juniors and seniors

Immersion trip to Nazareth Farm, a Catholic intentional community near Salem, West Virginia. Nazareth Farm opened in 1979, and has been receiving volunteer groups ever since. As per their website, “Nazareth Farm is a Catholic community in rural West Virginia that transforms lives through a service-retreat experience. We serve alongside our neighbors to address substandard housing by providing home repair. We celebrate the richness of Appalachia and experience God by building relationships between our volunteers and the local community.” 

Ignatian Solidarity Network Teach-In for Justice

Occurs in the fall; open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors

Students travel to Washington DC, gathering on the steps of Capitol Hill, with a large Ignatian Family, to express concern for issues of social justice. The trip includes meetings with other Jesuit high schools and universities, breakout sessions on issues of (in)justice, work in advocacy and an action component. Students will also tour our nation's capital and learn about how to advocate for justice at the highest level.

Kino Border Initiative

Occurs during Spring Break; open to juniors and seniors

The goal of this immersion trip is for students to better understand the reality of immigration and deportation at the US-Mexican border. Students spend time at the border town of Nogales, with the Jesuit ministry: The Kino Border Initiative. They serve and visit with deported individuals, walk in the desert and learn about the legal process that leads to deportation. The trip provides an opportunity for students to respond to Jesus' proclamation "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." (Matthew 25:40)

Los Angeles Service & Solidarity Immersion

Occurs during Spring Break; open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors

Students have the opportunity to spend their winter break in Los Angeles, California's complex and diverse urban center, to witness and serve the marginalized while living and engaging in communities that serve them. Staying in several locations around downtown Los Angeles, students serve the poor in a variety of ways, from serving in soup kitchens to tutoring children. Students will visit Homeboy Industries, a recognized leader in gang rehabilitation, for a special baking session and tour. They also spend four days on Skid Row in the heart of downtown, where they cook for and serve the homeless, learn about drug addiction and rehabilitation, and see first-hand the many challenges that exist and what people are doing to provide solutions. Students live and eat simply on the trip so as to appreciate and enter into the greater reality of the poor, while also embracing the cultures of the many different groups who call this area home.

Mississippi Delta Immersion

Occurs in the summer; open to rising juniors and seniors

On this trip, students travel to the Mississippi Delta, one of the poorest and most under-served regions in the United States. They learn about the Civil Rights Movement, the educational and economic disparity between the Delta and much of the rest of the US, and the history of Blues music, which developed in this region. Students engage in service work in several areas, helping with building repair specifically, and get to stay at a historical sharecropping site, as well as visit Blues clubs.

Navajo Reservation Immersion

Occurs during Winter Break; open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors

Students travel to a Navajo reservation near Tuba City, AZ, where they do service work in various settings that could include painting, boxing up lunches or cleaning yards. There is ample opportunity to learn about the culture and the current situation of people living on the reservation. Students meet young people from the local area and visit some sacred sites with a guide.

Cambodia Service & Cultural Immersion

Occurs during Winter Break; open to juniors and seniors

Participants on the Cambodia immersion will work with students and teachers at Xavier Jesuit School in rural Banteay Meanchey province in northwestern Cambodia. They will teach and tutor elementary and middle school students, as well as meet and interact with peers from nearby local villages who attend our brother Jesuit high school. Students will spend a couple of days in Siem Reap and Angkor Wat—the largest religious monument in the world and considered to be the eighth Wonder of the World, They will learn about the rich cultural history, religious traditions, and the political ramifications that have shaped Cambodia into what it is today, as well as examine the struggle of the Khmer people in a country recovering from civil war, destruction, and genocide.

Ecuador Service Immersion

Occurs in the summer; open to rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors

Traveling to Quito, Ecuador, students work at the Working Boys Center (WBC), an amazing place where families from the 'poorest of the poor' work to break the cycle of poverty. Run by Fr. John Halligan, SJ, and BVM sisters, the Center provides education, healthcare, job training, a spiritual community and financial training. Our students help in all areas, but primarily in the grammar school.

El Salvador Solidarity Immersion

Occurs in the summer; open to rising juniors and seniors

While in El Salvador, the students examine the history and influences of the Jesuit martyrs, visit with members of the two major opposing political parties, and visit our sister community in Agua Escondida. In addition, the delegation attends several meetings with representatives of various human rights, labor and environmental groups. They also plan the November liturgy in honor of the Jesuit martyrs and host the Solidarity Dinner in support of our sister community, Agua Escondida.

Guatemala Service & Solidarity Immersion

Occurs in the summer; open to rising juniors and seniors

Students travel to Guatemala City to serve and accompany students and staff at Esperanza Juvenil. Known as Boys Hope Girls Hope in the United States, this Guatemalan program provides approximately 60 youth with shelter, food, clothing, and a comprehensive education and co-curricular program. Service activities include painting, building maintenance and tutoring. These projects are paralleled with constant soccer, art and conversation with the children. The group also visits Mayan ruins and tours the vibrant cultural center of Antigua.

Mexico Service & Cultural/Language Immersion

Occurs in the summer; open to rising juniors and seniors

Students travel to Central Mexico for an immersion rich in solidarity, language, culture and service. Starting in Mexico City, the group explores the vast capital city and familiarizes themselves with the smells, the sights and the sounds of this metropolis of over 21 million people. They then travel to the rural countryside of Puebla for the core of the trip, spending six days living in solidarity with the boys at the IPODERAC orphanage. The group completes 60 hours of service at the boys home while living as the community lives and helping with daily chores in addition to completing a major service project. After six days of hard work and plenty of soccer, the group returns to Mexico City to further explore the city, including a visit to the ancient pyramids of Teotihuacán. 

Puerto Rico Service and Cultural Immersion

Occurs in the summer; open to rising juniors and seniors

Students will build, paint, and/or roof homes in a part of the country that is still reeling from Hurricane Maria. They will meet and work alongside students from our brother Jesuit school, Colegio San Ignacio de Loyola, learn about Puerto Rico's culture and tradition, and examine the political injustices facing the beautiful island.

South Africa Solidarity Immersion

Occurs in the summer; open to rising juniors and seniors

This trip explores the dimensions of social (in)justice in post-apartheid South Africa. Students meet with political and religious leaders, as well as explore local townships and community organizers. Students stay at a Jesuit church outside of Johannesburg and learn about African culture and South Africa's struggle for justice.

Taiwan Cultural, Language & Service Immersion

Occurs over Spring Break; open to juniors and seniors 

Students and faculty leaders will travel to Taiwan for a 10-day immersion in culture, language and service. The group will visit the vibrant and modern city of Taipei City, exploring its rich Chinese traditions.  The Bellarmine contingent will also spend days in service, traveling to the north central mountains to tutor elementary school students of Taiya Tribe, a minority indigenous population in Taiwan. They will also help to clean up the local community. The indigenous peoples of Taiwan face economic and social barriers, including a high unemployment rate and substandard education. We will interact with students and teachers and learn about their lives and history, as well as the challenges they face in this fast moving, industrialized and media-driven society.

Tanzania Cultural, Service & Solidarity Immersion

Occurs in the summer; open to rising juniors and seniors

Students will travel to the Mt. Kilimanjaro area of northern Tanzania to explore a beautiful region and devastating poverty. They will spend the majority of their time in rural Tanzania, putting on a summer camp for school children. Students will develop a deeper understanding of the social and economic reality of Africa, while being in one of the most beautiful regions of the world.

Tijuana Service Immersion

Occurs during Spring Break; open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors

During Easter/Spring break, mostly junior and senior students, along with members of the Dads' Club, travel into Tijuana to literally build a foundation for the future for four to five families living in Tijuana. During the building of each house, family members may very well be working side-by-side with the students.