October 26, 2007

Mid-Atlantic School Hosts Students from Kosovo

Four high school students from Kosovo recently spent a school day at Our Lady of Victory Academy, a sponsored secondary school of the Mid-Atlantic Community of the Sisters of Mercy.

The students visited the United States as part of an international peace-building program co-sponsored by Catholic Relief Services, the National Catholic Educational Association, and the U.S. Agency for International Development. The Kosovo students, three Albanian Muslims and one Serbian Christian, wrote award-winning essays on tolerance to qualify for a week-long educational experience in the United States. Their objective for this visit is to learn to live together peacefully with people from different ethnic backgrounds. At Our Lady of Victory Academy, the student body is 22% Hispanic, 12% African-American, 6% Asian and 60% Caucasian.

During their visit to Our Lady of Victory Academy, an all-girls Catholic high school with 400 students located in Dobbs Ferry, NY, the Kosovo students participated in a social justice class focusing on social justice. The teacher from Our Lady of Victory Academy, Ellen Brickwedde visited Kosovo in July with other Catholic educators.

The social justice class began with writing letters to God in a prayer journal about breaking barriers to see the giftedness of others who are ethnically-diverse. The next assignment was to see how much candy students could win together as they placed their elbows on a table and locked hands. Each time a person touched the other person's arm on the table they would win a piece of candy, and vice versa. The goal of this activity was to demonstrate "power with someone" not "power over someone."
Six pairs of students competed winning only a handful of candy, until a student from Kosovo and his translator created a “win-win” situation by playfully and peacefully moving their elbows from side. Next, the students discussed the qualities, characteristics, and examples of "power over someone" and "power with someone". The class ended with the students gathering in groups of five and creating human sculptures which demonstrated "power with someone" or equal relationships.

“This opportunity to learn about different theories of power and discover ways that people from different religions and cultures live together is very interesting,“ says 19-year-old Dardene Ceku from Kosovo through a translator. “We should all embrace the model of equality and balance of power. It is a good lesson for everybody.”

“We can use power in positive ways,” says Ms. Brickwedde, as she ended the 90 minute religion class. “We can use power for the common good to help people in need and to live together peacefully.”

Debbi M. Della Porta
Director of Communication
Mid-Atlantic Community
Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas

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