During June and July of this year, students, Brothers, and Partners from throughout the District of San Francisco New Orleans made their way to two of the District’s annual Young Lasallian summer events: the Lasallian Youth Assembly and Lasallian Student Leaders. Coordinated by the District’s Young Lasallians Director, Kenenna Amuzie and sponsored by the District’s Office of Education, these gatherings offer hundreds of Lasallians intense week-long immersions of faith, community, and service in the areas of social justice and student leadership.
This year, attendees from the two programs have provided their recollections of and reflections on their experiences.
LASALLIAN YOUTH ASSEMBLY
June 26 – July 1, 2016 | El Paso, TX
We all arrived at our housing at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) on Sunday, June 26. Welcome and introductions of the participants from both the District of San Francisco New Orleans and the District of Mexico Norte were followed by Mass at Sacred Heart Church in the Chihuahuita (“little Chihuahua”) neighborhood of El Paso. What a way to start the assembly. Mass was conducted in both English and Spanish – it was the perfect way to bring together the students from the U.S. and Mexico.
On Monday, we met at Cathedral High School, which is a short distance from UTEP. Morning prayer was led by San Miguel High School. The day was spent attending sessions on topics that are at the heart of borderland issues. These included presentations on immigration by Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services; advocacy, constitutional rights and the work of the Border Network for Human Rights; and the Lasallian Catholic perspective on border issues by Brothers Chris Patiño and David Garcia.
The presentations and discussions that followed were critical in building a foundation for going to the service sites out in the community. Without this background, the students would not have understood what they were going to be seeing and doing on the service days. While the discussions were not without controversy, dialogue was respectful and all sides were heard. Everyone walked away with a greater understanding of border issues.
Evening prayer was led by St. Paul’s High School, Covington.
On Tuesday, morning prayer was led by De La Salle North Catholic High School, Portland. This was followed by service day.
My group went to Southwest Key Program. Southwest Key is one of the largest providers of services to unaccompanied immigrant children in the United States. For nearly 20 years, Southwest Key’s Unaccompanied Minor Program has been an integral partner in U.S. efforts in sheltering immigrant children under 18 years of age who arrive here without a parent or guardian.
We toured the facility/school and met with the lead teacher, who told us that the current students were from Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. He explained what happens to these kids from the moment they are caught by border patrol (some actually turn themselves in) to either being united with a family member or being deported.
A powerful moment for me was to recall that every student in our District is reading Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario. This book is about a teen from Honduras trying to reach the United States by way of the dangerous train journey through Mexico. Well, we met and heard the stories of many Enriques, including a heartbreaking encounter with a 12-year old girl from Guatemala who was pregnant after being raped while riding the train trying to unite with her mother. The novel became more that just words on a page.
Evening prayer was led by the District of Mexico Norte.
Wednesday morning prayer was led by Mullen High School, Denver. My group went to two service sites that day.
First up was Santa Catalina Co-Op Center. Centro Santa Catalina is a faith-based community in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, founded in 1996 by Dominican Sisters for the spiritual, educational and economic empowerment of economically poor women and for the welfare of their families. Located in El Paso, the Co-Op Center offers many educational and support programs to help the women and their families. We met with women who cross the border daily to take advantage of these programs. We were able to purchase items made by these amazing women. Their stories of strength and courage were incredible.
We then went to Loretto Nazareth Hall in central El Paso. A wing of this nursing home for retired Sisters of Loretto has been opened to help serve the mass of Central American refugees who arrive daily in El Paso. Free services to the refugees are provided by volunteers who help them verify their documentation so that they get on a bus or plane to their next destination. Other volunteers help with food, clothing, and medical needs. We served and ate lunch with the refugees, sorted clothing, and made care packages.
Here was another powerful moment for me. We were eating lunch when a man came into the lunchroom and started calling out names. There was a young man and woman sitting by themselves at a table and the man’s name was called. The woman immediately started crying – the list of names meant that the man was going to be moved to a different facility. They were going to be separated – the man was being taken to California. It was heartbreaking because they had traveled through Mexico together and all they had was each other.
Evening prayer was led by De La Salle High School, Concord.
Thursday morning prayer led by Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory, San Francisco. The focus of this day was two-fold. First, we reviewed all that was learned. We created a mural that would be used on the altar at our closing Mass. The mural represented a knowledge of the issues surrounding immigration and what could and should be done. Second, we all pondered the question, “Now what?” What can we do as a Lasallian Family? How we work together to educate others in our schools about the reality of immigration? How is it our responsibility to do something about the negative stereotypes of immigrants and why they want to come to the United States.
Yet another powerful moment for me was to have the schools from both Mexico and the U.S. participate in LYA. There are literally two sides to the issue of immigration and the struggles that occur all along our shared border. Having schools from both of our countries there allowed for an understanding of the complexities and challenges involved in building a solution.
Our closing Mass was held in Chamizal Memorial Park, which is adjacent to one of the three El Paso – Ciudad Juarez border crossings. It was a very appropriate place and way to end our days together.
Faculty Member, Mullen High School, Denver, CO
LASALLIAN STUDENT LEADERS
July 17 – 22, 2016 | Saint Mary’s College of California
On the beautiful campus of Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, California from July 17th to the 22nd, over 200 young students from 16 schools and their moderators gathered to share in a uniquely Lasallian experience: the 13th annual Lasallian Student Leaders Program (LSL). These students engaged in a thought provoking and leadership building week filled with prayer, community activities, leadership training, various skill sessions, and varied and vibrant committee work.
Favorite moments from the week included skill sessions on a variety of topics from professionalism to time management. Other times included a one-man performance of “Dirt” by John Morello, which encouraged students to see things from different perspectives and fit directly with St. La Salle’s dream to reach the margins of our community. These moments were punctuated by student-run committees that met throughout the week. Each committee was responsible for a different aspect of life at LSL, from Public Relations running a blog throughout the week to Spirit energizing and motivating every other committee with songs, dances, and gift bags.
While also learning various leadership skills, students were also treated to fun activities throughout the week, including a committee-planned Olympics, rally, and dance. All coming at the end of the program, these activities encouraged students to bond closer to their fellow students in an atmosphere of fun and activity, as opposed to the more conference-like structure of the previous days. The same spirit was achieved during the almost nightly socials where schools would come to together to participate in games, dancing, and conversation. All of these events throughout the week gave us an opportunity to grow our own skill set, learn new skills, and apply the same skills that we all often use at our home schools.
This year’s participating District schools were Cathedral High School, Los Angeles; Christian Brothers High School, Sacramento; De La Salle High School, Concord; De La Salle High School, New Orleans; De La Salle North Catholic High School, Portland; Justin-Siena High School, Napa; La Salle Catholic College Preparatory, Milwaukie; La Salle High School, Pasadena; La Salle High School, Yakima; Mullen High School, Denver; Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory, San Francisco; Saint Mary’s College High School, Berkeley; Saint Michael’s High School, Santa Fe; Saint Paul’s School, Covington; and San Miguel High School, Tucson. Also participating for the first time was Archbishop Rummel High School, Metairie.
Students Anthony LaCroix (‘17) and Reagan Hill (‘17)
St. Paul’s School, Covington, LA