This post was written by Annie Hanley-Miller and originally posted on Blue Boat.

Building Community Overcomes Difference

Photo by Annie Hanley–Miller.

by Annie Hanley–Miller

I brought back many things to my home community from my experience at Activate NOLA. It was an intense week and I learned a lot about race, poverty, Hurricane Katrina, and global warming. I also learned a lot about forming and being in community.

During the week, I talked with so many unique people who all helped me to gain new perspectives on all kinds of things. It was interesting to meet both people from the New Orleans area and from around the country. The lectures on racism, poverty, Hurricane Katrina, and global warming were helpful in understanding the interconnections of all of these issues. I plan on using my understanding to support social justice work at my home community.

Another thing that really impacted me during the week was interacting with all the strongly connected communities. We went to panels, lectures, and workshops and the community behind every place we went to was so close knit. Communities knew how to support one another and were able to have different opinions and calmly discuss them. Even we, the youth participating in Activate NOLA, were able to create a functioning community with no judgments. I plan to use what I learned about strong, welcoming community and apply the strategies to my own community.

While at Activate NOLA, there were also lots of opportunities for us as youth to step up and assume leadership roles. A few youth volunteered to be in charge of our touch groups which would meet and discuss our day as well as plan a service for the end of the week. Other youth would step up and look out for other youth when it was needed or would take charge of a situation to help it run more smoothly. I was inspired by how willing everyone was to assume different leadership roles. I hope to try to help my home community create more leadership opportunities for youth like the ones available at Activate NOLA.

Over the next year, I plan to share and discuss everything that I learned with my home community, especially my youth group. I hope that others will be inspired to seek out more information such as I did. I gained so much knowledge, perspective, and experience from participating in Activate NOLA and I am thrilled to be able to share all of that with my home community.

Annie Hanley-Miller is a member of South Church in Portsmouth, NH.  She is a junior in high school and has a strong interest in social justice work.


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