September 11, 2012, 10:23 AM
“I want to empower these students to see themselves as part of the bigger picture – people who can make a global impact, even as students,” Ms. Harish said.
Students not much older than those at Stuart Hall are mediating conflicts, leading revolutions and transforming the global society, said Ms. Harish, who came to Stuart Hall Friday as part of the independent Catholic school’s annual fall retreat.
She pointed to the examples of the young leaders who used social media to organize opposition forces during the “Arab Spring” revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. Ms. Harish also noted the tremendous positive influence wielded by Musaique – a group of young Middle Eastern musicians from a variety of religious and cultural backgrounds whose performances and recordings have spread a message of peace throughout the region.
While some might consider a life of global leadership and service to be a sacrifice, Ms. Harish – who has previously led training sessions for young people in Miami, Buenos Aires and Honolulu – urged them to see it as an opportunity to do what they loved the most.
“I asked them to brainstorm ways to connect the things they care about with the things that make them come alive,” Ms. Harish said. “If homelessness is the problem that really strikes them, they could write a blog about it – or, if they love to play guitar, they could play a benefit concert.
“I wanted to get those big ideas out there,” Ms. Harish said. “There is a way – especially now – to do what you love, and help the world at the same time.”
Community service is a requirement at Stuart Hall, with students asked to complete 75 hours before the end of their junior years. In the past, student projects have included volunteer service at the St. Anthony’s Foundation Dining Room in San Francisco, work rebuilding storm-damaged homes in New Orleans and a school construction project in Uganda.
“The students do an awesome job at local community service,” said Lori Saltveit, the academic technology, new media and global partnership and service director for Stuart Hall who organized the Sept. 7 event. “We’re trying to move them to thinking about what they can do on a global level.”
Asked Friday which issues concerned them the most, the students named “hunger,” “racism” and “global health” as the areas in which they hoped to effect the most change.
Following Ms. Harish’s presentation, the members of Stuart Hall’s junior class traveled to the Presidio of San Francisco for a service project on the local level (pictured above): cleaning, weeding and improving a landscaped area within the national park.
URI’s Young Leaders Program provides training to youth throughout the world, helping them develop concrete skills for interfaith leadership and offering them a space to encounter each other, share their experiences and learn about other traditions. For more information about the program, visit www.URI.org.