It has always been the Jesuit way to reflect on our past and work toward a better future. Gonzaga founder Father Joseph Cataldo began his mission in the area bringing the message of the Gospel to the local Native Americans. When the college and high school opened in 1887, it welcomed Spokane’s Catholic emigrants. The all-boys high school moved to its current campus on Spokane’s near north side in 1954. Twenty years later, in 1975, the school became co-educational, adding young women who had attended Marycliff and Holy Names schools.
The progression of our history gives us pride in our predecessors who understood the importance of a Jesuit education, but it also motivates us to examine ways to grow as we strive to love God and neighbor, and accompany those at the margins of society.
Yet there have been moments of reckoning in our history, where we have fallen short of our call to promote the sacred life and dignity of every individual. In February 2019, amid the nationwide attention to publications of universities and high schools, Gonzaga Prep too was called to act on the past. From that experience, our community spent time engaging with students and offered private listening sessions on the deeply disturbing nature of the yearbook content.
In 2020 as the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tamir Rice and so many more sparked global protest, the sin of racism again hit home when a Gonzaga Prep alumna published a column in the Inlander newspaper that detailed her very personal experiences of racism as a student. A letter penned by a coalition of BIPOC students spurred a deep dialogue between administration and the coalition and the creation of a Task Force to address the recommendations of the coalition.
PREVIOUS AND ONGOING EFFORTS:
In the 1990s, the school began several programs designed to support diversity, including the creation of a faculty diversity committee, which organized student-focused diversity initiatives. Some examples of student programs included: Diversity Week, Lunchtime Speaker Series, and an expansion of Christian service opportunities to Native American and African American communities.
In the 2000s, diversity initiatives were expanded and a member of the faculty served as a part-time Diversity Director, with responsibilities for organizing student programs and professional development for faculty and staff. During this time, diversity efforts among Jesuit schools were expanding, which led to student summit affinity gatherings in which students would travel from various Jesuit schools to discuss their experiences and diversity issues. The Jesuit Province began gathering Diversity Directors from schools to support professional development and the sharing of best practices. At Prep, the Diversity Club and the People Including People Club (LGBTQ) were launched.
In 2015, the school began work to institutionalize its work for diversity through the creation of an Office for Equity and Inclusion. The discernment which led to this decision was motivated by a desire to increase support for students of color, increase retention of students of color, and better prepare white students for the world beyond Spokane. At the same time, the Society of Jesus was encouraging schools to implement programs to promote equity, and Prep was learning from the example of other Jesuit schools that had already established an institutional office to support diversity initiatives. Gonzaga Prep’s first Director of Equity and Inclusion was hired in Spring 2017.
To learn more about the efforts of the Office of Equity and Inclusion, visit our Institutional Support page.