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UUCSJ Announces New High School Service Journeys

By Tom Martorelli on October 25, 2016

The UU College of Social Justice (UUCSJ) recently announced its expansion of service journeys tailored specifically to high school youth. These programs – to West Virginia, Florida, Tucson, Ariz., and Nicaragua – build a justice training framework around the core experience of hands-on service, education on some of the structural and systemic ways that oppression is maintained, and specific tools for action and organizing. The result is a powerful combination grounded in spiritual reflection and solidarity with our partners.

Youth groups can choose to travel to the coal-mining territory of West Virginia; the tomato fields of Florida with field workers struggling for a living wage; Tucson and the U.S.-Mexico border for an immersion along the difficult migrant pathways; or Nicaragua for a language and culture immersion. Each program includes a “deep dive” into specific issues such as climate change or immigration, along with hands-on direct service in the communities we visit.

Hikers on the migrant trail near the U.S.-Mexico border
University Unitarian Youth group walking a migrant trail in the Sonoran Desert.

UUCSJ’s new High School Service Journeys are also designed to be flexible. For example, they can be  scheduled to fit the needs of congregations and young people wishing to participate. UUCSJ can build the program around spring or winter breaks, or summer vacation. Also, most programs can be adapted in length from between four to eight days. Costs vary according to location and length of stay, but they generally range from $400-$850 per person (not including travel to the destination). UUCSJ charges only the direct cost for each program, and offers financial aid for participants whenever possible.

Here are the current UUCSJ Service Journeys for youth:

  • Appalachian Culture and Community, West Virginia: West Virginia has a history of significant environmental, social, and economic injustice that revolves around the state’s long but diminishing economic dependence on coal mining. After stopping in the state capital to learn more about West Virginia and hearing an overview of many of the challenges residents face, participants will travel deep into the Appalachia region of the state for a hands-on experience working with and learning from communities struggling for a new, post-coal future.
  • Solidarity with Farmworkers, Florida: The Alliance for Fair Food and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers represent some of the most exploited workers in the country. In the past decade, these grassroots organizations have had tremendous success building nationwide campaigns to fight for these workers’ rights. Youth will learn about these campaigns, meet the workers themselves, and gain a deep understanding of the life and  conditions of migrant workers — and the inspirational ways they are organizing for change.
  • Revolution and Resiliency, Nicaragua: Nicaragua has a well-deserved reputation as a country of rebels and poets. Groups will learn about the effects of centuries of both U.S. intervention and citizen solidarity, as well the complex history of dictators, revolutions, and the more recent grassroots struggles of the Nicaragua people. Staying in a small village with local families, youth will experience the country’s day- to-day life, study Spanish, and learn how they can be in solidarity with the Nicaraguan people upon their return home.
  • Immigration Justice, Arizona/Mexico: Human rights are at stake on the U.S.-Mexico border, and through meetings with partners, listening to migrants tell their stories, and walking the dangerous desert paths so many of them risk in crossing the border, youth will experience the depth of the immigration crisis firsthand. The program begins and ends in Tucson, Ariz.; youth groups can choose either a program based entirely in southern Arizona, or one which works on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.

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