Students from fourteen schools from across the province gathered at the John Paul II Retreat Center in Kearny, New Jersey on October 12-15, 2023 for the annual ACTION Student Advocacy Workshop designed to train them to become advocates and ambassadors as part of Edmund Rice International’s Ambassador program. The Ambassador program is aimed at uniting over 250,000 Edmund Rice students from across the globe to speak with one voice through the Edmund Rice non-governmental organization located at the United Nations in Geneva Switzerland and New York City.
The workshop, hosted by the ERCBNA Office of Educational Services provided students with the tools and resources they need to create three projects throughout the year around sustainable development goals. Guest speaker, Cormac McCart from Westcourt Centre, in Belfast shared learning modules to help students understand a variety of topics and how they can advocate. In addition, Br. Tim Smyth, CFC, who organized the workshop, shared a history of Blessed Edmund as a means for understanding Blessed Edmund’s advocacy and offered insights around advocacy. Iona Prep students shared how they advocated for their ACTION project last year.
In addition, the workshop helped students in the following areas: understanding different types of advocacy, identifying and addressing issues that are important to students, developing effective communication and presentation skills, building relationships with key decision-makers, strategies for taking action and creating change, viewing a grassroots environmental change effort at the Meadowlands Nature Center, in New Jersey.
Students participated in interactive activities and discussions throughout the workshop. They also had the opportunity to hear from inspirational speakers who shared their own experiences with advocacy. One student stated, “I discovered the long path I had to take to become a leader, but I also learned so much about myself, such as the gifts I’ve already been given, my role as an ambassador, and the reality that is possible in being a determined leader.”
The workshop closed with a beautiful liturgy celebrated by Father Justin Cinnante, O Carm, chaplain at Iona Preparatory School. Ms. Lilian Vernier, from Vancouver College prepared the students for the liturgy and engaged the student in song. Mr. Dennis Figueroa, moderator from All Hallows sang “You Raise Me Up” for students at the close of the liturgy. Each student was commissioned to advocate and make change.
In keeping with their commission as advocates during the workshop, Ambassadors named at ACTION met with Advocacy Coordinator Dr. Sean D’Alfonso and Cormac McCart to discuss future steps. As a result of ACTION students will continue to meet with Dr. D’Alfonso and are responsible for creating three advocacy projects on the topic of their choice but linked to United Nations sustainable development goals. Many are working on homelessness, and Laudato Si projects. As a result of ACTION, please expect to hear their voices in school administration offices, faculty meetings, and in the community!