Bay Ridge native Natalia Adam is one of a select few students who will participate in the Ignatian Social Justice Tournament, at which students from five New York City schools compete to earn up to $20,000, with the winnings being donated to a charity of the victor’s choosing.
At the tournament, Adam and her peers — who attend Loyola School in Manhattan — will make an oral presentation to a panel of judges regarding issues in West Virginia that they learned about through a recent service trip. The students will also pitch their charity of choice, the West Virginia Ministry of Advocacy and Workcamps (WVMAW), a Christian ministry that offers discipleship by partnering with those in need whose lives have been devastated by natural disasters and poverty.
Adam, 15, is the youngest of three students from her school participating in the tournament. She was recommended by a teacher during one of the school’s service trips.
Because of her interaction with the organization, Adam said, the teacher thought she would be a good fit for the tournament.
During her first trip to West Virginia, Adam learned about some of the hardships faced by residents in parts of the state.
“We were talking about the whole coal mining industry in West Virginia and also the lack of jobs and environmental impacts coal mining has on the community,” she said. “It’s difficult to go there and see the effects of that. That’s what drew me towards that issue.”
The West Virginia trip, along with stops at Camden and Chicago, inspired Adam to learn more about the various problems each city faces and to come up with solutions.
“It’s nice to learn about some of the issues in the different communities that people face and actually be able to go there and see it,” she said. “I think it’s a unique opportunity.”
When Adam found out she was selected for the tournament, she was excited and nervous at the same time.
“It’s so cool to present something like that in front of people and actually have them listen in that setting. It will be really interesting,” she said. “We are making a video for part of our presentation and we may do something with a slideshow.”
Adam said she had received a lot of encouragement, from both her family and teachers, adding that she’d like to continue to help others in the future. “I want to be a part of things like this, and speak to people about these issues, and go and help people and see the results of what we’re doing, I think it’s really nice to be able to do that and see that you’re making some kind of difference.”
Adam, who also went to Visitation Academy, said that Visitation had shaped her into the person she is today.
“Going to [Visitation] for 11 years, the values I learned there are definitely some of the values I have now,” she said. “Then coming to Loyola opened my eyes even more and deepened my values.”
She also had advice for younger people wanting to follow in her footsteps.
“If the opportunity comes, take it,” said Adam. “I wasn’t sure either, starting this whole process, how I would feel about it at first but once I got into it, I became passionate about all these things.”
The Ignatian Social Justice Tournament takes place on April 8.