In the beginning of August, we concluded our 5th Annual Interfaith Youth Leadership Initiative (IYLI) Summer Programming. This summer we completed our 5th L.A. program at USC, our 4th Long Beach program at CSULB, and our 3rd Orange County program at Chapman University. We had the opportunity to work with over 100 students from 11 different faith backgrounds across all three programs. Students spent each of the days with their mentors doing activities, conversing about their faith traditions, and finding common ground among all their faith traditions.
During our Los Angeles program we visited the Islamic Center of Southern California, Wilshire Boulevard Temple, and the International Buddhist Meditation Center. We had an engaging conversation during our Interfaith Leadership Panel with Edina Lekovic (Public Affairs Consultant at Muslim Public Affairs Council), Rabbi Sarah Bassin (Former Executive Director of New Ground: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change), and Rini Ghosh (Peace and Non-Violence Activist, Past President South Coast Interfaith Council, 2009). Our LA group volunteered at Union Rescue Mission by passing out water to homeless individuals on Skid Row, reorganizing rooms in the housing department, and helping with paperwork among other tasks. We also spent an evening at the Santa Monica Pier so our participants could have fun together and create bonds with students of other faith traditions.
During our Long Beach program we visited Wayfarer’s Chapel, the Jain Center, and the Long Beach Mosque. We engaged with speakers Rini Ghosh (Hindu), Maria Khani (Muslim), and Judy Gillaland (Latter Day Saints) about their work in the interfaith community. We also had presentations by Milia Islam-Majeed (Executive Director of South Coast Interfaith Council) and Jessica Moss (Sociology professor at Cal State Fullerton). Our students served the local community by cleaning around one mile of public beach space. Our group also went to Mulligan Family Fun Center for some bonding time.
During our Orange County program we visited Temple Beth Sholom, the Shinnyo-en Buddhist Temple, and the Sikh Center of Orange County. We heard from Essra Nawar (Muslim, Development Coordinator for the Leatherby Library at Chapman University), Jessica Moss (Sociology professor at Cal State Fullerton), and Sande Hart (Jewish, Interfaith Activist) about Interfaith Leadership, and Rusty Kennedy (Executive Director of OC Human Relations, Anti-Bullying Program “Bridges”) about how to combat hate in our community. Our students assisted Stop Hunger Now package dry foods and non-perishables into boxes for 6,048 individuals in need. We also spent an evening at Sky Zone trampoline park so the students could have some fun and get to know each other.
We had an amazing time with all of our students and cannot wait til next summer!