Morse High senior Jon Yturralde, who helped kickstart his school’s upcoming social-justice-oriented“Week of Consciousness”, took a few minutes to chat with about what inspired him to trade Morse’s Friday football rally for a peace rally.

Yturralde is the offspring of two missionaries, grew up in the Phillipines, and attended what he calls “a small private Christian school with high standards” before returning to San Diego where his parents grew up, and enrolling at Morse, one of San Diego’s largest and most troubled high schools. Morse has failed to meet federal standards for more than six years, and is now facing pressure to boost its test scores or face consequences under No Child Left Behind.

Last summer, he made his second trip to Uganda, where he helped renovate schools and tutor high schoolers. School conditions in Uganda were dire, he said, yet not totally unlike the problems at Morse.

“I found a lot of Morse High in the kids in Uganda,” he said, “even though they were worlds apart … They complained to us about the problems they face from their government, and how they feel let down or discriminated against. A lot of people at my school also talk about how the government totally opposes them, how they get the least of everything — we have old textbooks and our classrooms are overcrowded.”

Returning to the United States, his worldview had been altered.

“It was a question of living more radically,” Yturralde said. “Let’s not just feel privileged. Let’s try to learn something, and let’s try to change things.”

Yturralde approached student groups to get them interested in a week of social justice activities. “It wasn’t just me at all,” he demurred. One group joined Yturralde in feeding the homeless downtown last month. It’s what Jesus would have done, the Christian teen said.

“We saw Morse dropouts there,” he said. “It’s a startling reality. … Which is why it’s so powerful that Morse is the one standing up for social justice. … We don’t have to imagine what it’s like to feel discriminated against, because it happens to us.”

Morse’s “Week of Consciousness” starts Tuesday, Nov. 13 at lunchtime.


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