A jangle of juveniles or a trample of teens, what do you call an aggregation of adolescents anyway? Twice this week passed I found myself engulfed in the energetic, at times frenetic bustle of young people. It is not hard to be swept along and challenged by the life potential and hope exuding from them.
Both FH Collins and Porter Creek Secondary held Challenge Days this week. FH Collins also hosted students at theirs from the Ecole Emilie Tremblay. Yvonne and Rich Dutra-St. John of Concord, California, facilitated these daylong events this year. They co-founded the Challenge Day program back in 1987 motivated as they say on their website (www.challengeday.org) by the fact that they did not want their then small children “to go through the pain we did growing up.”
Our schools as they state “are a microcosm of the larger community.” The Dutra-St. Johns noted that “the biggest problems in our schools are separation, isolation, and loneliness.” The basics of their small and large group exercises which punctuate the day would not be unfamiliar to folk that have done or experienced the likes of youth, anti-poverty or community development public education or animation events before. A direct line linking their “Notice, Choose, and Act” formula for change with the “See, Judge, Act” triplet coined decades earlier by Catholic Action could be drawn as well.
No matter all was new for the young student participants. With a safe place for building trust and channelling the feelings of participants created, an experiential foundation could be laid for envisioning another way of relating in the school community. As the Dutra-St. John’s ask: “If our kids cannot experience love and connection in their schools, how can they ever believe that peace on earth is possible?”
On Wednesday evening carloads of food found their way to the Whitehorse Food Bank. Judging from the sorting tables overloaded with cans, boxes and bags of non-perishable foods of every description the annual Catholic Schools Fall Food Drive was a real success. Elbow to elbow with students mainly from Vanier Catholic Secondary I jostled to pick out cans of fish, meat and beans basically. The designated milk crates immediately behind me dictated my choices. Once filled other students, teachers or parents carried the crates back to still more students who took on the task of loading the food bank shelves.
Challenge Day and the Catholic Schools Fall Food Drive both are just one-day events. You do not end the problem of hunger in our community, end bullying in our schools or obviously change the world in one day. However, you must use ever occasion possible to encourage our youth to begin the process. Both events did that, they engaged youth. Both events surrounded our young people with caring, committed adults. This is a pretty powerful combination.
Our youth of today face in the coming decades possibly the most uncertain times in all of human history. Fear can immobilize any of us. Jim McGinnis, co-founder of the Institute for Peace and Justice and the Parenting for Peace and Justice Parenting program, always said that the adults in our children’s lives, parents, teachers, youth leaders and others have a key role in helping them overcome fear. We have to show them that we too want change that we are working for needed changes here and now.
Our efforts will not only contribute to making them feel safer but will encourage and motivate them to continue working towards building the more and more desperately needed peace-filled, just and sustainable world. May we give thanks this weekend for everyone around us who is working for change.
Dr. Bernie Pauly will give an address on Wednesday, October 14th at the Westmark Hotel at 7 p.m. entitled Finding a Home: How do we get there? It is part of the weeklong activities of Poverty and Homelessness Action Week. As a professor in the School of Nursing at the University of Victoria she has worked on a program for determining the effectiveness of programs aimed at ending homelessness.
Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.