New to this year’s Diocesan Youth Day was the Young Peacebuilder Awards presented by Pax Christi.
The main honor went to Shayla Machado, a senior at St. Joseph H.S., Downtown Brooklyn.
Rosemarie Pace, director of the regional chapter of Pax Christi attended Diocesan Youth Day at Immaculate Conception Center, Douglaston, to personally present Machado with the award.
She explained that the young woman is a participant of C.S.J. Leaders in Mission, which has led Machado to tackle the issues of: human trafficking, immigration reform, gun violence, environmental safety, equal rights for women and peace promotion.
The young peacebuilder worked with students in Puerto Rico and elderly nuns on Long Island. She volunteered at a law office and interned at Diaspora, a city program that works to foster an acceptance of diversity.
Machado took part in the Dignity in Schools campaign, which worked to revise public school handbooks and discipline codes to promote peace and reconciliation for suspended students returning to school and to help avoid crime and imprisonment.
The high school senior is part of the YA-YA network, Young Activists – Youth Allies, a not-for-profit, youth-driven, political education endeavor. Her work there has addressed military recruitment in city schools and sexual discrimination and harassment in the military. Through YA-YA’s connection to Amnesty International, Machado wrote to the prime minister of Ethiopia regarding human rights violation and has teamed up with the War Resisters League, to potentially start a campaign to end the use of tear gas as a method of crowd control.
Machado said she is able to juggle all her responsibilities thanks to a passion for justice and knowing when to say no. The high school senior said she learned that she cannot do everything and so chooses projects that she is truly passionate about and has the time to put effort into.
The Maloof Family Young Peacebuilder award marks the first time Machado received an award for what she calls her efforts to promote justice.
“It’s a really humbling experience,” she said. “There are so many people doing what I’m doing, and even more, that don’t get acknowledged.”
Her efforts were noticed by her guidance councilor, Mary Christie, and the head of her school’s religious department, Sister Pat Lucas C.S.J., who nominated her for the award.
Although she has not yet chosen a college to attend, Maloof is confident she will continue to be presented with opportunities to help others.
“As long as there is injustice in the world, there are always people fighting it,” she said.
While at the Diocesan Youth Day, Pace also presented Certificates of Commendation to two others young peacebuilders: Christopher Malchus, a senior at Bishop Ford H.S., Park Slope, and Monica Celaj, a senior at St. John’s Prep, Astoria.
Information on how to nominate students will be available on nypaxchristi.org in the beginning of next school year.
This marked the first time the Maloof Family Young Peacebuilder award was ever presented. It was sponsored by Pax Christi Metro New York, a regional chapter of the international Catholic Peace Movement. The Pax Christi (meaning Peace of Christ) movement began at the end of World War II in France.
The metropolitan N.Y. chapter works to promote peacebuilding among individuals. One of their strategies is presenting famous and not-so-famous people with Peacebuilder awards.
Last year the organization was so impressed with one high school student, David Maloof, that they presented him with the Eileen Egan Peacemaker Award.
After visiting a Palestine refugee camp in Lebanon with his family at the age of 13, Maloof decided he wanted to help the children living there.
Therefore he raised money for a basketball hoop and a Ping-Pong table for the young refugees. The Italian Consulate was so inspired by his story that it built a full basketball court, complete with lights for playing at night, at the refugee camp.
Maloof’s initiative moved Pax Christi Metro New York to start a Peacebuilder award for high schoolers in honor of the Maloof family.