PYM Youth Programs staff are heading to New York City this weekend with a group of nineteen Young Friends, and Friendly Presences (adult volunteers), for a winter gathering that includes a program with the Youth Services Opportunity Project (YSOP).
Young Friends gatherings explore spirituality, leadership, fun, and the nature of Quaker community. The YSOP-focused program is an experiment, speaking to the interest in service and witness expressed by Young Friends last spring at Continuing Sessions.
YSOP is an amazing organization! Learn more about them at www.ysop.org.
Melinda Wenner Bradley, Youth Religious Life Coordinator, shared some insights about the trip as she and Young Friends staff Olivia Chalkey (Program Facilitator) and Aeryn Luminkith (Program Assistant) prepare for the weekend:
Q: Tell us the reason behind why the trip was planned.
A: Young Friends (high school-age youth) have expressed an interest in opportunities for social justice witness and service work. The last two Spring Continuing Sessions have included youth participation in the March for Our Lives (focused on gun control) in Harrisburg, PA in March 2018, and witness for immigrant justice at Berks Family Detention Center in March 2019.
YSOP is a Quaker organization that offers service opportunities, and in the winter of 2019 they approached us about doing a program with PYM youth. So the two energies rose around the same time, and we began to explore planning. YSOP seems to be a modern iteration of the AFSC youth work camps of the past.
Q: The Young Friends New York trip is coming up. What are some things you are anticipating and looking forward to? How did you prepare for it?
A: I worked closely with YSOP staff on logistics and details, in collaboration with the Young Friends Program Facilitator, Olivia and her Assistant, Aeryn, who planned the non-YSOP time during the weekend. We also connected with Friends at Brooklyn Meeting, where we are staying on Saturday night.
There’s a wonderful opportunity to connect across yearly meetings — Brooklyn Meeting teens will be joining us for the Saturday evening program, and one of the PYM participants is actually a New York Yearly Meeting (NYYM) youth who is a student at George School and the clerk of NYYM Junior Yearly Meeting!
Q: Could you share some more information about having to stay at two different meeting locations?
A: YSOP’s offices are in the same building as the New York Yearly Meeting office, AFSC’s New York office, parts of Friends Seminary’s elementary school space, and Fifteenth Street Meetinghouse (where we will be staying on Friday night). The YSOP program ends on Saturday around 5pm, and it seemed like a fun idea to continue the weekend in another part of NYC, so we are being hosted by Brooklyn Meeting. This is also one of the larger meetings in NYYM and it will be fun to attend worship there on Sunday.
Q: How do you hope to help feel the Young Friends to be more connected to service through this event?
A: YSOP runs excellent programs. I’m familiar with the experiences of school groups and educator colleagues who have shared the depth of the experience and the skill of the YSOP facilitators in conducting the “debrief” with youth after they have spent a Saturday at soup kitchens and shelters in NYC, seeing homelessness and food insecurity up close.
Q: What do you think they are going to get out of this experience?
A: Young Friends are a wonderful group of young people, a community that really cares for one another and has a heart for witness in the world. I expect they will serve well over the weekend, and reflect deeply on the experience.
PYM hopes that the Young Friends feel connected to their service work in NYC and experience leadership in a way that is distinctive to the Quaker community. We are excited to share more updates about the trip soon! Melinda, Aeryn, and Olivia are very grateful to the Friendly Presences who are coming on the trip: Emma Leibman, Christy Randazzo, and Robert Rosenthal.