As high school students get ready to hit the books once again, The Tablet’s youth page editor looks forward to sharing all the wonderful ways teens and their schools will make the world a better place this school year. But before welcoming the 2015-2016 school year, here is a couple of stories you might have missed from last year with this final tribute to the 2014-2015 school year in the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens.
Women’s Professional Day
Last March, St. Joseph H.S., Downtown Brooklyn, hosted a Women’s Professional Day titled “The Power of Empowered Women.”
“This is a day to remind us of a vital, practical possibility and that is, that we are powerful, strong-minded, intelligent young ladies and we can do anything and everything we set our minds to because we have the power of empowered women among us,” said senior Adanna Carter in her welcome address.
The day started out in St. Boniface Church, where Nanette Malebranche, a managing director for FedEx, gave her keynote address.
“You are the person that will change your life,” she told the church full of students. “Education will help you as you go through life… Never rush with the important decisions – think about them – then make the best decision for you.”
Senior Julia Cassidy said she was greatly inspired by the keynote.
“You can’t expect everything to be given to you, without you taking the first step,” Cassidy said explaining what she took away from Malebranche’s speech.
After the keynote, students went back to school to hear over 40 professional women address them in small group settings. They included forensic biologists, social workers, engineers and journalists, but the woman who made the biggest impression on senior Shania Lawrence was student Crystal Genao.
Genao is enlisted in the Army National Reserve and came to the professional day in uniform. Lawrence said she remember Genao from when she still attended St. Joseph H.S.
“I’m proud that she comes from our school,” Lawrence said.
The senior said the day has reaffirmed what her school has been telling her all along: “Anything is possible when you set your mind to it.”
Ending Teen Dating Violence
In February, CEO and founder Aryn Quinn of EndAbuse4Good spoke to students at St. Saviour H.S., Park Slope, about preventing domestic abuse and teen dating violence.
EndAbuse4Good is committed to breaking the cycle of intimate partner or “domestic” abuse affecting teens, women and children. Quinn’s talk to Saviourites included eight signs of an abusive relationship and allowed the young women to ask questions and encourage dialogue about healthy relationships and partner abuse, with an emphasis on keeping young people safe.
Loving the Poor
Last winter, five students from Fontbonne Hall Academy, Bay Ridge, participated in a service retreat at the Romero Center in Camden, N.J.
They spent the weekend with other students from Philadelphia and Boston in an immersion service experience.
The Fontbonne students spent their first day at the Martin Luther King Jr. Child Development Center with children ages 2 through 5. The director of the center spoke to the students about Camden’s low graduation rate, and they learned about the importance of early academic intervention with a focus on reading as a way to increase the school district’s retention rate. The students spent their second day at the Inglis House, a residence in Philadelphia for people with physical disabilities. The students joined the residents in their recreation room and enthusiastically participated in various activities such as playing UNO, facilitating a poker game, and viewing funny YouTube videos. The students were also given a tour of the city to see the crippling effects that poverty, crime and homelessness have had on the city over time.
Each evening, they returned to the Romero Center where the staff facilitated activities related to the themes of Catholic social teaching. In one particularly difficult yet eye-opening exercise, the students were challenged with the task of feeding themselves for an entire day on just $3, which represented the amount of government assistance given to a person living in poverty for a day’s worth of food.
Fontbonne Campus Minister Megan Correira initiated the trip and accompanied the group.
Female empowerment was the theme of this year’s Harmony Day play at St. Agnes A.H.S., College Point. The school’s senior creative writing class produced the script, which was performed by the drama club. In the play, a bright but shy student fears speaking her mind and presenting a speech to her classmates. After falling asleep at the end of class, she awakens in 1920 where she meets a group of suffragettes. Inspired by the power of their voices at a rally for women’s voting rights, the student finds her own voice. She awakens in the present day ready to present her own speech and share the message of women’s rights