Scholas Wraps Second New York Encounter

| 03/20/2024

By: Steven Schwankert

This year’s three-day program set the scene for an additional summer event in the archdiocese

Students from various area high schools offer their final presentation at the Scholas New York Encounter, March 15, 2024, on the former premises of Cathedral High School on E. 56th Street in Manhattan.
Students from various area high schools offer their final presentation at the Scholas New York Encounter, March 15, 2024, on the former premises of Cathedral High School on E. 56th Street in Manhattan. Photo by Steven Schwankert/The Good Newsroom.
Scholas Occurentes concluded its second foray into the New York area on Friday, March 15, with about 200 students from 25 high schools participating in the three-day Scholas Citizenship event at the former campus of Cathedral High School on East 56th Street in Manhattan. 
 
Founded in Argentina in 2013, while Pope Francis was still Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Scholas seeks to engage young people in thinking about and working on social issues facing their peer group. Cardinal Timothy Dolan first announced that the multi-faceted youth program would come to the Archdiocese of New York in May 2023.
 
At the start of the program, after initial ice-breaking activities, students, who need not be Catholic or attending a Catholic school to participate, were assigned to a group, where they were asked to discuss areas of concern in society, concerns generated by the students, not moderators. The students then prepared presentations that were given to the full group and ultimately proposing an action plan to carry forward after the program ends.

On Friday at the closing ceremony, in remarks to the group, Archdiocese of New York Auxiliary Bishop Edmund Whalen, Vicar for Clergy, thanked the students for participating. “You come together and you remind all us old people that there is hope,” he said. He then blessed an olive tree, stating that olive trees have long symbolized peace, as far back as the story of Noah and the ark in the Bible.

Bishop Whalen also said that in order to produce olive oil, the olives must be crushed. In a similar way, we must be willing to submit to God’s plan for us.

Also participating in the closing ceremony were interfaith leaders Rabbi Sergio Bergman and Imam Beytullah Colak, both from Argentina, who each offered their own blessing of the olive tree. They were joined by Briana Pechin, deputy superintendent of the Archdiocese of New York; and Felipe Paulier, who has served as the director general of the National Youth Institute of Uruguay from 2020.

Students highlight mental health, educational issues

In their concluding presentations, half of the student groups focused on mental health. The other half chose the education system and educational issues as their topic. Three of the four groups made posters to highlight their issues; one chose to make a short video depicting their concerns about young people and mental health issues. The impact of social media and a lack of access to mental health resources were cited as problems and significant factors; reducing the former and increasing the latter were offered as solutions.

For education, “teaching for a test rather than teaching to learn,” was highlighted as a problem, along with funding.

Scholas announced that it will present a further Encounter in the Archdiocese of New York this summer, June 26-28 at Mount St. Michael Academy in the Bronx.

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