Teens share values, morals, ethics

By  Nicholas Carafa, The Catholic Register
  • April 27, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO - Senator O’Connor College High School in North York hosted its fifth annual Building Bridges — Bridging the Gap event April 14.

With a theme of “What would Jesus Do?” the aim was to ease Grade eight students in the transition to high school, explain to the 285 students attending what it means to be a healthy citizen and teach them how God made everyone unique and for a reason.

“The participants are taught to use their morals, values and ethics taught to them from childhood through our Catholic doctrine and through our Catholic belief system,” said Juliana Lombardi, a youth worker at Senator O’Connor.

The student teachers, high school students involved in the Empowered Student Partnerships club, which works closely with Toronto police, focused on issues like bullying, substance abuse, healthy relationships and cyber awareness. For each topic the presenters raised awareness about the issue, provided strategies for the students to avoid these behaviours and victimization, and most importantly, as good Catholics not to criticize those who struggle with these problems. They were encouraged to support their peers in making the right decisions.

Lombardi said many students make bad decisions because they believe following the crowd is the easiest thing to do. Many of these decisions are based on misinformation.

One example came from a 13-year-old boy she overheard at the onset of the substance abuse presentation.

“Marijuana is a herb, therefore smoking it on a regular basis is just like having more herbal flavour in your food,” he said.

With a majority of the focus on the students, it was also a valuable experience for the student teachers involved in the presentation, said Lombardi. Dealing with inattentive teens can be frustrating at times, but the students took this as an opportunity to understand the hard work, planning and challenges involved with teaching.

“We hear so much about youth who commit illegal acts but we don’t hear enough about the phenomenal work that the students such as my ESP leaders are accomplishing,” said Lombardi. “I am truly blessed to be surrounded by youth who continuously are bright shining lights in our community.”

Having the chance to be lectured by students only a few years older than themselves, the elementary students came away with words of wisdom from those whom they may better relate to. They were given the opportunity to build healthy relationships and learn from peers who struggle from the same pressures, home environments and other teen issues.

“There are many things happening in our world today involving teenagers that can be avoided, so teaching children about these things and telling them how they can be avoided is very important,” said Carla Lorincz, a 16-year-old Grade 11 student at Senator O’Connor. “For kids in Grade 7 and 8, it’s a great age for them to learn about these dangers.”

“I believe that this event is an unique strategy in addressing issues that children and youth may come in contact with and may shy away from asking the adults in their lives,” said Lombardi. “The conference gives the audience the opportunity to ask questions without feeling like they are being judged.”

When all was said and done, the audience gave the presenters a standing ovation, the definite climax of the day for these young leaders, Lombardi said.

“It felt like we had just overcome a huge obstacle together, as we had been planning and stressing out for this event for months,” said Eternity Martis, 16, and in Grade 11 at Senator O’Connor. “It felt very rewarding.”

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