Kemptville – The Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario hosted its annual Just-Us Youth Day on Tuesday, November 28, a symposium for nearly 300 Grade 10 students from across the Board’s ten secondary schools.
The day gives students an opportunity to learn about the good work being done by not-for-profit organizations and individuals committed to social justice initiatives. Each year the presentations are developed around a theme; this year’s theme was “Ignite the Light of Justice,” inspiring students to become informed and act on social justice causes.
Catholic Student Trustee, Andrew D’Alessio, outlined the specifics of the day to the Board. Students began the morning with a liturgy, followed by a keynote address given by Dr. Eva Olsson, Holocaust survivor and author. Dr. Olsson spoke to the students about the power of hatred, and how it contributed to the death of more than 11 million people during WWII. Dr. Olsson shared her personal story of survival, and strength, after living through concentration camps, slave labour factories, disease, and witnessing the death of so many, including most of her family. Dr. Olsson stressed the importance of not being a bystander when bad things happen, and of having compassion and respect for others. She stressed that every person has a responsibility to demonstrate leadership, to ensure that their community is a safe, compassionate and an accepting place to live.
Students attended additional workshops in the afternoon, where presenters discussed how they can make a difference in local and global communities. The workshops were designed to move students to act on social justice causes such as poverty, inclusion, human rights, Indigenous issues, and community outreach. Presentations were given by a wide variety of groups including: House of Lazarus (Community Outreach Mission), Guatemala Stove Project, Development and Peace, WE (formerly Free the Children), and L’Arche Ottawa.
Catholic Student Trustee, Andrew D’Alessio noted, “I’m so proud I was able to be part of such a great day. Being the emcee was a great experience, and witnessing our Student Senate work together to ensure that this day ran smoothly was certainly a highlight for me. The keynote speaker, and the session leaders have inspired all of us to put our faith into action.”
The day was organized and facilitated at all levels by the Catholic Student Senate and the Department of Religious and Family Life Education. The Senate has representation from all CDSBEO Catholic secondary schools under the leadership of Trustee D’Alessio. The planning and organizing of the event gave the students an opportunity to demonstrate their leadership skills.