Summer, service and Social justice

Be the Light Institute at Canisius allows high school students to experience Jesuit education for a week. (Photo courtesy Abby Wojcik/Be the Light Institute

Be the Light Youthology Institute exposes high schoolers to Catholic Jesuit ideals 

By Victor Colon de Dendariarena, Features Contributor 

Be the Light is a program for high schoolers in which they get to experience life on campus at Canisius for a week while learning about Catholic Jesuit values and social justice in and around the city of Buffalo. It is lead by Dr. Chanderbhan, who receives assistance from student leaders such as Rose Durnell. Together, these people help to introduce the world’s youth to what Chanderbhan describes as “the faith that does justice.” 

This involves teaching them about aspects of Jesuit philosophy, which starts with human dignity. The Catholic Church teaches that all people are made in the image and likeness of God and, therefore, each person is owed just treatment.

 “We are called to go forth,” he said in regards to standing in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are less fortunate than us. Whether the group is Catholic or not, if they are advocating for equal treatment, Be the Light argues, they should be considered our partners. 

The central value Be the Light attempts to address is social justice. All of these things are reinforced with scripture, keeping the program founded in the Catholic faith. Each day starts with breakfast and morning prayer, after which the students will engage in justice immersion. The students learn about the root causes of problems, either visiting sites or having representatives of an organization come to them. 

They follow up with a debrief, lunch and an academic session. This includes a staff member, alumni, or a member of the local community speaking to them about the specific value of the day. They also have a workshop where they either research or do an activity relating to a specific issue or value talked about that day. They eat dinner together, say a prayer and have some scheduled fun time. 

Rose Durnell, a leader for the institute, said that even she learned a lot from the experience. “Even though I grew up here, I didn’t know a lot about the social injustices here,” she said. She claimed her favorite part had to do with one of the justice immersions where they went to the West Side Bazaar. “Everyone was so excited to buy things from the little stands,” she said.

She also got to show off the diversity of her nearby neighborhood. The West Side Bazaar is a space for people to open their own businesses, many of which are run by immigrants. The students got to hear their stories and experience a small piece of their culture. 

“When I was in high school, I never thought to do service,” Durnell said on the message of the week. She was happy knowing that Be the Light was able to introduce younger people to that aspect of faith. 

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