This July, the Unitarian Universalist College of Social Justice will be hosting its second National Youth Justice Training (NYJT). I attended the program last year, which has been revamped for 2013. Expanded from one week to three, the UU College of Social Justice will partner with Boston’s The City School to provide training for high school youth in anti-oppression, social justice activism, and Unitarian Universalist theology and history.
The program’s essentials are as follows:
When: June 30 – July 21, 2013
Where: Andover Newton Theological School, Boston, MA
Cost: $3300 (reduced cost of $500-$3000 available by application)
Application: Apply online by April 15, 2013
Program Leader: Elizabeth Nguyen, additional program leaders, chaplains, and adult staff TBD
My experience with the NYJT was absolutely wonderful, and I would encourage any UU youth interested in social justice to apply. I think my favorite parts of my week at the training were the connections we youth made with community members and organizations in Boston, and with each other. In November, I wrote about my experience at the National Youth Justice Training (called Summit last year) here on Interfaith Youth Activist:
The week in Boston really served to contextualize and put in to action all the social justice literature and critical theory – yes, this is what I read for fun – that I had read up until that point. An incredible day for me was that when we traveled to Haley House, a non-profit organization that works to alleviate hunger and poverty in Boston’s South End. After a brief tour of the organization’s facilities and training session with Sister Linda, Haley House’s volunteer coordinator, our group got to work setting up and distributing food at the organization’s soup kitchen. Most of the people receiving food there were elderly immigrants who spoke little English, but even without a shared language, their immense joy and gratitude was obviously apparent to us; one woman was so excited to have a place close to the front of the line that she sang and danced when she got her number. I think it was an important experience for all of us, to humanize “the poor” and “the hungry,” effected by the systems and structures we had been learning about at NYJS.
Our time at Haley House, however, also taught a great lesson in the importance of empathy and understanding to the logistical side of a social justice project. Many of the people who are helped by Haley House’s soup kitchen are immigrants from China; as the staff at Haley House told us, if the organization distributed foods like watermelon and peanut butter, chances are at least some of the people who received those foods wouldn’t actually be helped by them, because they aren’t necessarily ingredients they would know how to use. Instead, the day Justice Summit participants helped distribute food, onions, carrots, blocks of tofu, and other vegetables common to Chinese cuisine were available. After we finished our volunteer session, Sister Linda walked with us to Haley House’s second location, a community bakery and cafe, stopping along the way to explain the neighborhood’s history and current issues that affect it. One stereotype about neighborhoods like Roxbury, that are populated by many people of color and people living in poverty, is that the neighborhoods are decrepit or dirty, and there was a lot of trash on the ground in the areas we walked through. Sister Linda pointed out both the stereotype and the root of the trash problem: on our entire walk from the Haley House headquarters to the cafe, we passed three trash cans. Two of them belonged to restaurants and were only available for use by their patrons. If, instead of judging the people or the neighborhood by the trash on their streets, people would listen to their needs and desires, an effective solution could be thought up.
I’m incredibly excited to serve as an alumni consultant during the development of this year’s National Youth Justice Training, and can’t wait to see program come to fruition in the following months. The UU College of Social Justice offers this description of the NYJT program which will take place this summer:
This transformative three-week social justice training for high-school youth offers interactive social justice education and real-world internships. In a program grounded in Unitarian Universalist values and practices, participants will create community across differences and leave with a deeper understanding of themselves and social justice. Youth who attended high school during the 2012-2013 school year are invited to apply.
More information, the official NYJT brochure, and an application for the program can be found at the UU College of Social Justice webpage.