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Working for social justice… starting in high school!

Sure, they are young. Idealistic, without a doubt. But they are above all full of enthusiasm and clearly destined for lives filled with adventures. Who are we talking about? The 16 participants in the FOCUS action sociale du Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-est (CECCE) program who, for a semester, are immersed in the world of university and are being directly introduced to the nuts and bolts of community action.

2018-2019 FOCUS action social cohort

Changing the world

For a second year, Saint Paul University is welcoming a group of Grade 11 and 12 students who are motivated by the same desire: to make the world a better place. The aim of this specialized program: to allow future change agents to prepare for studies ‒ and a career ‒ in community engagement. Julie Meloche, a teacher in the CECCE and the director of the program, explains: “In addition to taking an online course and a co-op course with a community partner, students study leadership as well as justice and social justice.”

In January, at the end of their time at SPU, these young women will head to Consuelo, a small village in Dominican Republic, where they will spend a week as part of a collaborative project with a Haitian community. The result: a group that is well-equipped for the future, resilient and sensitive to the common good.


Occupying different surroundings

But why choose to be immersed in a university setting? To satisfy their curiosity and explore a different kind of humanism. “I wanted to get out of my comfort zone,” Lindsay Alcy (Grade 12) tells us. “I love human interaction, and they told me that SPU emphasizes social solidarity.” Arélie Lubanzadio (Grade 11) echoes these thoughts: “We have more independence and responsibilities here,” she notes. “We are learning to manage our time and our workload ourselves.”


Training future generations

The participants in FOCUS action sociale are of course a dream team of future innovators for SPU, but has SPU met the young people’s expectations? “This partnership is truly a gift,” says Julie Meloche. “Our program emphasizes openness to the other, and that is exactly what we are experiencing here. The atmosphere at Saint Paul is human, warm, and the girls are experiencing that every day.”

How do the young women see things? “I think everyone should have access to this kind of experience,” says Laura Eugene (Grade 11). “Unfortunately, too few people are interested in or exposed to it.”

Hopefully, over the next few years, a growing number of institutions, students and, above all, parents will understand the key role played by initiatives such as FOCUS action sociale in training future generations that are engaged and open to the world.

“I think I speak for everyone here
when I say 
that we want to make a difference in the world

and in our community.”

Soleilah Menelek-Nosifort (Grade 11)

Julie Meloche with her students
This article was written in collaboration with Jephte Charles, a third-year student in the Honours Bachelor of Arts in Human Relations and Spirituality and a student ambassador.

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