Saint Ursula Academy, part of a national initiative by Fair Trade Campaigns to engage K – 12 students in issues of global poverty, is proud to announce its official designation as a Fair Trade School. SUA is just the 36th school in the nation to earn this official certification.
Fair Trade is an economic system that ensures consumers that the products they buy are grown, harvested, crafted and traded in ways that improve lives and protect the environment. Fair Trade Campaigns officially recognizes schools in the US committed to educating students about the issues of Fair Trade and sourcing Fair Trade products like coffee, tea and bananas in the cafeteria, offices and at events. Fair Trade Campaigns sees the tremendous impact institutional purchasing in the US can have on farmers and artisans worldwide.
“There are few things more exciting than seeing today’s youth come to understand the role that they can play as consumers in making the world a more fair and just place. To see them become not just conscious consumers, but advocates for Fair Trade, should challenge all of us to do the same,” said Billy Linstead Goldsmith, Director of Fair Trade Campaigns.
The Saint Ursula Community Service Learning Office, Social Justice Club, and individual students have embraced the Fair Trade concept and have all worked together for years to create and build the awareness and availability of Fair Trade products and practices at Saint Ursula Academy.
Many of the initiatives at Saint Ursula were implemented thanks to suggestions by students and/or student groups such as the Social Justice Club. Two years ago, with the support of the administration, two students researched an option for the required uniform of Saint Ursula to be ethically sourced. (see photo left) As a result, our mandatory uniform shirts, some skirts, as well as many other items sold in our DawgHouse spirit shop, are now certified Fair Trade. Student groups also sell Fair Trade coffee and hot chocolate at the student-run Bulldog Boost Coffee Shop. SUA also offers options for the entire community, both students and parents, to purchase fair trade Halloween candy as well as Christmas gifts from Fair Trade certified vendors during our Christmas Boutique.
In addition to financially supporting items which are deemed to be ethically sourced, Saint Ursula Academy also participates in a “Who Are You Wearing” day where students are encouraged to think about fast-fashion and the conditions under which their clothing was made. Through this process, students reflect on the importance of ethical work conditions in clothing factories around the world and can make educated decisions about where they should shop.
“The production of many products we buy have been tainted by slave labor and other such abuses,” said Rachel Kemper, Community Service Learning program director at Saint Ursula. “Fairly traded products seek to remedy this injustice by lending a voice to the voiceless. We can play a part simply by purchasing products that are fairly traded. By using our free market purchasing power in this manner, and instead of buying what is cheap and inexpensive, we send a signal that we stand with those who are abused.”
Educating the students at Saint Ursula about issues like these happens in the classroom, clubs and through programming. The students are empowered to act on issues about which they feel passionate.
“Not only do these Fair Trade products support the dignity of women across the globe, but we began this journey by affirming and listening to our own students,” said Kemper. “They want to make a difference and learn how to take actions after they are educated about larger systemic issues of justice. We can empower them to do just that by giving them these action steps in regards to their purchases. Over the past five years, various groups of students have come forward to educate, inform, and advocate for fair trade clothing at our institution.”
Becoming a certified Fair Trade school is one way Saint Ursula is living out one of the core values of an Ursuline education - to "Affirm the Dignity and Gifts of Women."
There are now over 280 active Fair Trade Campaigns in towns, schools, congregations and universities across the country, now including Saint Ursula Academy.