North Reading High School student Jenna Crawford has been a girl scout since 2007. This year, she is working toward her Girl Scout Gold Award and in the quest to receive the award, she held an Interfaith Leadership Summit at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Reading.
"The Interfaith Leadership Summit was a conference in which high school students from across the area came together in this leadership initiative centered on diversity, acceptance and tolerance, religious pluralism, and identities," Crawford said.
About 50 students attended the summit in late October where the goal was to "highlight different dimensions of diversity, and how we can ultimately find a certain unity in our diversity."
Crawford decided to tackle this for her project because she found value in learning about other religions and places of worship when that opportunity was presented to her, and she wanted to share that experience with others. When she was in the seventh grade, her church offered a year long program that allowed participants "to explore different places of worship that they may have never before investigated or even walked inside, some even next door to their neighborhood, schools, or town centers."
"After an experience such as this one, they walk away with the understanding that 10 minutes inside another place of worship is just as valuable as a year’s worth of services inside one’s own place of worship. This was a yearlong process of exploration and discovery at my church, and I thought that such an experience (even If condensed into one day) should be accessible to everyone," she said.
The students that were part of the summit participated in leadership initiatives and workshops that required them to be open-minded when it comes to race, culture, religion and the role that religion plays in peoples lives. The students also watched various presentations including one on Buddhist meditation, led by Andy Furst of the Buddhist Meditation Group at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Reading and Baha’i Faith led by Carol and Dave Weigert.
"Three high school seniors spoke about their personal experiences with religion: Adam Syed spoke about Islam, Esha Jain presented Hinduism, and Julia Dudley-Kramer focused on Unitarian Universalism," Crawford said.
Crawford received a positive response from participants and hopes to hold a summit like this annually.
"I want to thank Seth Robinson, who was my advisor throughout the whole process, and instrumental in every aspect of the Interfaith Leadership Summit," she said.