This post was written by a parent of one of last year’s participants from our youth justice training in New Orleans.
Last spring, we began the annual ritual of finding something for our son Jack to do over the summer. Then 15, Jack had attended UU church since the 1st grade, and while I looked at a wide range of options, the UU College of Social Justice programming stood out. I loved the idea of strengthening Jack’s ties to the faith and, as an enthusiastic youth group and CON participant, he loved the idea of a week-long UU experience in such an exciting city.
But I wasn’t expecting much. I knew that the UUCSJ was still pretty new, and suspected the program might be glorified babysitting. In this I was entirely mistaken. The New Orleans trip literally changed Jack’s life. He returned home with deep connections to UU youth throughout the country, and an intensified commitment to social justice issues that is beginning to shape his thoughts about college and the future.
Sometimes the best lessons come from unexpected sources. During Jack’s stay, the group attended a church service that was disrupted by the pro-life Operation Save America. The way that UU Minister Deanna Vandiver handled the situation demonstrated, as no workshop or presentation could, how to meet anger and hate with non-violent love and resistance.
Behind every eager youth participant is an anxious parent, and I had my share of worries about how well the program would be run. Again, the New Orleans program exceeded my expectations. Both the Boston staff and the onsite program team were incredibly competent, caring, and responsive to my questions and concerns.
Jack will finish 11th grade in June, and we are once again exploring summer opportunities. Although many factors are coming into play – including those ubiquitous college visits – near the top of the list is the Activate Southwest Border trip. And truly, there can be no greater “testimonial” to the efficacy of the CSJ’s programs than that.
Janet Spector Bishop
Mother of Jack Spector Bishop, participant in the summer 2014 New Orleans youth trip