Unleashing courageous leadership and collective power
to realize a just and loving world.
YoUUth SOALS is MUUSJA's social justice leadership program for Unitarian Universalist youth in the Twin Cities. Over the course of six monthly sessions, high school youth are delving deep into activism and organizing, our UU theology, congregational dynamics, and living out our faith as justice-seekers within and beyond our spiritual communities. In this entry, written at the mid-point of our program, Lazlo & Nelson reflect on their experiences and learnings thus far.
Lazlo Zbichorski is a member of the youth group at White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church in Mahtomedi.
Nelson Maroukian is a member of Unity Church - Unitarian's Tower Club for high school youth. Both are high school seniors, and have been serving as the YoUUth SOALS interns, leading their peers in worship, reflection, and action in our monthly sessions.
In what ways have you noticed the program impacting your daily life? Lazlo:
I have noticed being part of this program has given me the opportunity to grow as a leader, I have also noticed being more aware about the social justice infrastructure of my church which has helped me notice where we are thriving and where my church could do a lot more work.
How has this program changed your ways of thinking about social justice within your church community?
Since the beginning of the program I have found myself noticing more about specific events and actions in my congregation. I have also found myself noticing the explicit, implicit and null curriculums both at church and in other public or community spaces.
Nelson: How have you seen yourself grow or change since the beginning of the program?
I have definitely seen myself grow not only within my leadership positions in this program but also taking more initiative within my youth group and school programs. I’ve also noticed feeling much more comfortable talking within groups of people I may not know as well.Lazlo:
What is one of the biggest takeaways from this program that you will incorporate into your life?Nelson: Definitely the leadership and planning skills that I am getting, as well as the perspective and insight that I’m gaining from the lessons and other participants in the program.
What is the biggest lesson you have taken away so far? Lazlo: One of the biggest things that I have taken away from the program was actually our first meeting and talking about social service vs social justice. Then thinking about that during the homework for the most recent session of the program, where we went to see what the church looked like from the eyes of someone going there for the first time, I realized just how much of the “social justice” things on the agenda would lean more towards social service then justice.
“There is a big difference between anti racism and “not racist”. Someone who says they are not racist may not necessarily say anything racist but that does not mean they are fighting against the systematic oppression people of color, especially black people face every day. To be truly against racism you must be anti racist, which means standing up for the rights of the people. ”Lazlo:
Have you started noticing thing about your congregation after the program you might have not noticed before?Nelson:
Yea, the “curriculums” at my church have become more apparent to me since the beginning of the program. I also have started to notice where our church is doing social service versus where we are doing social justice, as well as where we are recognizing that distinction.
What do you hope to get from this program that you have not yet?
I hope to make even more connections and stronger friendships with other UUYouth outside of my congregation.
How has this leadership position helped you grow and change within your daily life?Nelson:
Most clearly through my leadership and planning skills, specifically surrounding social justice work. I hope that I will continue to grow and change as I learn more about the possibilities and particulars of social justice action, organization, and leadership.