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 (YL) summer events: the Lasallian Youth Assembly (LYA) and Lasallian Student Leaders (LSL). 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.
The 17th Annual Lasallian Youth Assembly took place at the University of Portland June 17 – June 22, 2018. The theme was “Hidden No More: Shedding Light on Human Trafficking.” Approximately 58 students and moderators attended from nine SFNO schools and from De La Salle Institute, Chicago, IL.
The Assembly focused primarily on education for advocacy training and in-depth study of the social justice issue of human trafficking. It featured a full day of classroom sessions, as well as expert-led field experiences. Through education, immersion, and reflection, participants were challenged to “break open” the realities facing those who have been victims of human trafficking, and to understand the role of advocacy in the Lasallian Family.
According to Amuzie, “One of the most powerful experiences for the group was hearing the story of Robin Miller, a human trafficking survivor who now works in Washington state with a youth program for commercially sexually exploited (CSE) youth between the ages of 12 and 24. Her story of God’s grace at work in her own life provided a powerful message of hope and triumph to LYA participants.”
Toward the end of the week, students worked in reflection groups to create art as a way of processing and expressing their experiences.
A month later, July 15-20, the 15th Annual Lasallian Student Leaders Program was held at Saint Mary’s College of California. The gathering drew approximately 225 students and moderators from 15 SFNO schools and from Totino Grace High School, Fridley, MN.
Designed to support student leadership in the areas of Lasallian charism and mission, LSL employs keynote presentations, skills training, and hands-on planning sessions to accompany students as they learn how to be effective Lasallian servant leaders in their schools. This year’s overarching theme was advocacy and empowerment.
For Amuzie, a powerful component of this LSL gathering was Lasallian Family Night. Each year, it is an evening where students reflect on and process input and share their observations and ideas. She noted, “This year’s gave students the opportunity to further reflect on some of the points addressed during the previous night’s keynote address, while also giving them an opportunity to put genuine listening into practice. A take away for the students was that, in order to be a leader that advocates for and empowers others, one must first be willing to listen attentively and authentically.”
One way that LSL’s effect on student leadership has grown over the years is in the mission influence that alumni of the program exert in their local school communities when they return to campus. Amuzie observed, “The sense and responsibility to take their LSL experiences and put it into practice at the local level is something that continues to grow among participants of the program.”
A common feature of both LYA and LSL is the two programs’ benefits for school moderators and animators. Says Amuzie, “LYA and LSL provide great formation opportunities for the adults who accompany their students to these programs. They allow adults to experience the larger Lasallian family beyond their schools, while providing an opportunity to meet or reconnect with colleagues from around the District. In addition to also benefiting from the content that the students receive, adult moderators walk away with a stronger sense of how they can continue to accompany their students in putting action to the experience.”
In Lasallian Youth Assembly and Lasallian Student Leaders, the San Francisco New Orleans Office of Education continues to meet its charge of developing programs and resources that “accompany and assist the Brothers and Partners in maintaining and advancing the Lasallian Catholic identity, character, activity and vision of the District and its works.”