Over this past spring break, I had the unique opportunity of leading five students (plus my wife and my seven-year old son) on a Service Leadership trip to Italy, where we spent five days exploring the sights of Florence, Venice and Rome by day (including climbing to the top of the Duomo, shopping the leather markets, riding in Venetian gondolas, feeding the pigeons in the Piazza San Marco, touring the Vatican, seeing the Sistine Chapel, marveling at St. Peter’s Basilica and walking through the Roman ruins of the Colosseum) and fed the homeless, poor, and hungry of Florence by night.
This was truly a transformative experience for each of us, more pilgrimage than travel, and I could not be more proud of the students for their willingness to step outside their comfort zone and engage in work far beyond that of their teenage peers.
This class is a course designed to help students think about their lives through the lens of vocation (Latin for “calling”), where the requirement for getting an “A” is simply this: go change the world. After spending a semester digging into the theories behind many of our social ills (poverty, poor education, homelessness, human trafficking, foster care, hunger, etc.) and engaging with those on the cutting edge in this field (including billionaire business owners who leverage their positions to change local neighborhoods, leaders of non-profits, superintendents of inner-city schools, former city mayors and leading community activists), the students have taken on projects that are real-world, real-time.
One student is looking at creating a longterm solution to human trafficking that includes providing a journey “from the streets to shalom” for girls caught in the ugly web of prostitution; one is writing a series of cookbooks designed to bring families back together to “tell better stories through the power of meals”; and one is working to weave together an interconnected system of support for students who typically fall through the cracks after aging out of the foster care system.
With their permission, I have highlighted their blogs below, so that you might get a taste of what they are up to. I think you will see that these are not your typical high school seniors! For a close-up of what we have been engaging in, check out the “blog posts” section of their sites. If you are encouraged by what you see, feel free to leave them a comment! I am so proud of them, and I know you will be too.
The Journey Project: http://journeyprject.wordpress.com/
The Share Better Stories Project: http://thesharebetterstoriesproject.wordpress.com/
The Trajectory Project: http://thetrajectoryproject.wordpress.com/
**Please note, these are projects designed for a high school leadership class, and, as such, do not exist in reality…yet!