This past June, the Interfaith Youth Leadership Initiative (IYLI) completed its third year of summer programming and its second Washington D.C. Advocacy trip for high school students. We held three IYLI programs: our Los Angeles program at the University of Southern California, our Long Beach program at California State University of Long Beach, and our Orange County program at Chapman University. Over one hundred and twenty participants from over twenty different faith persuasions contributed to our IYLI and Washington D.C. summer programs.
During our three IYLI programs, youth participants:
- Built leadership skills by speaking publically and sharing their own tradition with others while respecting the traditions of their peers
- Served 500 individuals on Skid Row at the Union Rescue Mission, served the Long Beach community by taking part in a beautification project at Hamilton Middle School, and served the Orange County community by packing 480 boxes of food at the OC Food Bank
- Visited the Islamic Center of Southern California, Los Angeles Mormon Temple Visitors’ Center, Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple, Jain Center of Southern California, First Congregational Church of Long Beach, Guru Nanak Sikh Temple, Islamic Center of Orange County, and the Hsi Lai Buddhist Temple.
- Engaged with speakers who included Rev. Jim Burklo, the Associate Dean of Religious Life at the University of Southern California, Rev. Gary Bernard Williams of Faith United Methodist Church & Hamilton United Methodist Church, Rev. Peter Laarman, Coordinator of Justice Not Jails & former Executive Director of Progressive Christians Uniting, Shourouq Al-Fartoussi, Programs Coordinator at the Islamic Educational Center of Orange County & Board member on the Newport Irvine Mesa Interfaith Council, Rev. Nichelle Madrigal of the Shinnyo Buddhist Temple, Rev. Paige Eaves, Rabbi Frank Stern, Ahmed Younis, J.D. and Dr. Gail Stearns.
IYLI Los Angeles participants at the Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple.
Mentors play an important role in IYLI. Each program has a total of 50 student leaders… which means we need 10-15 mentors to connect with the youth and help the program go smoothly. These exceptional individuals are part of a team that helps the young leaders connect with each other as well as community leaders around them.
All mentors must complete a background check and go through an orientation prior to the programming in June of 2014. Upon successful completion of the program, each mentor will earn a $100 scholarship to help her/him with their college education. Mentors are individuals who are college sophomores through graduate school.
Click here to apply!
Mentors are seen helping participants create collages that represent their faith tradition.
Karishma Gokhale (left) took part in the Interfaith Youth Leadership Initiative Long Beach activities that took place once a month from July to December of 2013. Karishma was one of the twelve IYLI participants that volunteered at the Long Beach Rescue Mission to serve lunch to the homeless the weekend before Thanksgiving. Read below what Ms. Gokhale has to say about the service event and our IYLI program.
I first heard about IYLI through my friend, Neha Jain. All I knew about it at first was that she had done some 3-day program in the beginning of the summer. She started telling me how interesting it was, and how she had met so many amazing people from different faiths and cultures, and got to experience things she would not have encountered otherwise. It sounded really exciting to me because of the events she had done and because it was more of a real world experience outside of the bubble I was used to. I decided to join.
The most inspiring activity I participated in was when IYLI went to serve food at the Long Beach Rescue Mission. We were in charge of preparing the food and serving it too. This was eye-opening but also really saddening when a few weeks later it made me think: “Where will that mom with the two little daughters be sleeping tonight?” It made me really want to go back and help out more. I think it was a great event by IYLI because this program is all about creating understanding between different faiths and one of the biggest things in all faiths is giving back to the community. I think the best part was when we sat down and actually had a meal with the homeless men and women we were serving. I had some pretty interesting and funny conversations with some of the people there.
Overall, I learned a lot from IYLI about different faiths and, also, more about my own faith and how I associate myself with it. I also was put into situations, such as volunteering at the homeless shelter, or met people that I would not have encountered because of this program. I think this was a really good experience overall and I am definitely going to recommend it to other high school students.
During the summer of 2013, Kayla Asemanfar took part in the Interfaith Youth Leadership Initiative Long Beach program. Since then, she has participated in New Vision Partners’ Film Competition along with her friend, Ian Liu. The theme for the competition was “Interfaith Cooperation through Service.” Kayla and Ian received 1st Place for their short film “Service through Friendship.” Read below, a short interview we conducted with Ms. Asemanfar. Watch their video HERE!
1. How did the IYLI Summer 2013 program inspire you?
After attending IYLI Summer 2013 program, I am much more interested in expanding my knowledge about different religions. I am inspired to truly get to know a religion and not judge it based on what society or the media say about it.
2. How did your IYLI experience influence your film submission?
IYLI showed me that all religions have central concepts of compassion, friendship, trust, diversity, acceptance, and love. Although different religions show these themes in different ways, these central themes and more can be found at the core of each religion. This influenced our submission because we came to realize that no matter what religion someone practices, they know that helping others is first priority. It doesn’t matter whether or not they’re Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, etc. Religious texts describe how if someone doesn’t have the same faith as you and even if they have no faith at all, they deserve the same respect and help that others do.
3. Why is interfaith work important to you and in society today?
I think interfaith work is especially important in this day and age. Religion seems to create barriers between people these days, and especially in the government, differences in religion and differences in opinion cause many problems for people, especially minorities, in America. I think that working towards understanding other religions is extremely important because you gain other people’s perspectives when you do that. Understanding and acknowledgement of other religions can help solve many of America ‘s and the world’s problems.
Do you know a high school student who is interested in expanding their leadership skills and knowledge of other faiths so that they are better equipped to interact respectfully with people from different backgrounds? This upcoming June, New Vision Partners will be holding its third year of programming of the Interfaith Youth Leadership Initiative (IYLI). During the 3-day program, students will build relationships with people of other faiths, take ownership of their own faith perspective, visit different houses of worship and act out their faith through service of the larger community.
The program is free of charge. Upon successful completion of the program, participants will earn a $100 scholarship which they may apply to college of their choice. All high school students (freshman through seniors) are eligible for the program. Applications for the Interfaith Youth Leadership Initiative in the summer of 2014 are now available online. Save the date, submit your application, and help spread the word.
IYLI Dates and links to applications for 2014:
New Vision Partners’ Film Festival will be held on Sunday, October 6th at USC’s Taper Hall Room 202 from 2pm-4pm. We will be screening our top three submissions by Neha Jain, Kayla Asemanfar, and Jasmin Johnson during the event. Our guest judges are Craig Detweiler, Barry Berona, and Patrick Stewart.
Each finalist will be awarded a college scholarship: $1000 for 1st Place, $500 for 2nd Place, and $250 for 3rd Place. The event is open to the public so bring your friends and family!
Out of respect for the High Holy Days and many requests by community leaders to delay the deadline for film submissions we are extending the film submission deadline until September 29th.
Dr. Steve Wiebe (top left) and the speaker panel: (top row from left to right) Ali Husein Alreza, Naomi Ackerman, Omar Ahmed Bahlaiwa, (bottom row from left to right) Dr. Selwa Al-Hazzaa, Reverend Dr. Gwynne Guibord, Dr. Maher Hathout, and Samar Fatany.
On Sunday, September 15th, over 30 interfaith leaders and supporters gathered at the Pico Union Project center in Los Angeles to discuss how interfaith work is relevant today. The event was moderated by Dr. Steve Wiebe, Executive Director of New Vision Partners, while the speaker panel included seven interfaith leaders from Los Angeles and Saudi Arabia: Dr. Maher Hathout, Reverend Dr. Gwynne Guibord, Naomi Ackerman, Omar Ahmed Bahlaiwa, Dr. Selwa Al-Hazzaa, Ali Husein Alreza, and Samar Fatany. Continue reading