Every Friday at Central, students from all four grades congregate in room 202 after school to partake in discussions about global issues, learn about ongoing crises and human rights debates, and understand various cultural, religious, and ethnic traditions and how they interact with a globalized society. What attracts these students to tackle serious and difficult concepts after a full week of arduous studying and testing? The answer is in the students’ club’s name—Global Youth United (GYU).
GYU was founded by Katherine Mateo (270) in partnership with the club’s sponsor, Dr. Leonard B. Finkelstein (185), who frequently visits the club and sits in on the students’ activities and discussions. As a youth-led organization, GYU’s core mission is to promote education, cultural awareness, and activism. Students from various backgrounds, countries, religions, ethnicities, cultures, and ideologies create an environment in GYU where diverse thinking is encouraged, opinions are welcomed, and constructive dialogues are fostered. As the nation’s most diverse school, the voices and discussions found in Central’s GYU provide students with the opportunity to discover unique perspectives while contributing their own in a forum unlike any other.
One of the many opportunities GYU provides to its members is engagement in local and international communities. Before the 2015-2016 school year even started, GYU’s members volunteered their time at MANNA, a non-profit organization that cooks and delivers meals to people in the Greater Philadelphia area and southern New Jersey suffering from life-threatening illnesses. During the year, GYU worked with Leah’s Dream, a nonprofit organization that helps fund women’s education in northern Ghana, to package twenty-five pounds of shea butter. Sales from the shea butter were used to fund girls’ education in Ghana and further their schooling. For Central’s 2016 International Day, GYU decorated the entrance of the first floor’s main hallway with informative posters about the Syrian refugee crisis and Black Lives Matter movement.
Additionally, GYU hosts and supports seminars throughout the year to provide all Central students with the ability to participate in complex discussions about a specific topic. Last year, GYU hosted a seminar on gender equality, and this year, GYU encouraged its members to attend the Philadelphia Diversity Conference’s (PDC) seminar on the Syrian refugee crisis. Many of the students from GYU are on the committee for PDC to further their commitment to providing students with information about global issues and creating a safe environment for students to voice their opinions.
GYU’s cabinet this year focused its ongoing discussions and activities around the theme of global migration and activist movements. Kate Orlovskaya (275), President of GYU, saw her club grow this year “in the sense that our members were able to participate in discussions regarding very critical and far-reaching events that are currently happening, which is sometimes difficult to do when covering other topics. GYU was really able to focus on present events given the world’s current political climate.” Kate believed that GYU’s success lied in its “ability to inform students about various topics and engage them in conversations regarding these topics. I think our meetings were successful because students often left them with more information regarding migration and with a new perspective on the issue.
“I am grateful to GYU as both a student at Central and as a citizen of the world because I believe that it has made me realize my passion for civic change, and it has taught me to examine different aspects of the world in a nuanced manner,” reflected Kate. “It was a place that brought me closer to my peers and exposed me to new thoughts and ideas. Organizing and attending the weekly meetings provided me with a consistent outlet for my beliefs, and has encouraged me to be a more empathetic, open-minded, and helpful person. Ultimately, GYU taught me how to channel my desire to help others into feasible and grounded actions. It also influenced my perception of the world by making me realize the importance of having shared beliefs with one’s community, and using those beliefs to change hearts and minds.”
Sofiya Patra (275), Vice President of GYU, explained, “There are topics that are too grave or too controversial to discuss with your teachers but are nevertheless vital to the development of a broader worldview. The students in GYU have also been a constant source of knowledge, inspiration, and support that has been unmatched in my high school career.
“GYU greatly increased my awareness about issues around the world and in turn taught me to be more inquisitive, compassionate, and understanding of others. I am no longer afraid to partake in a heated discussion with someone I may disagree on as I’ve realized the value of listening to opposing views. Also, I’ve come to be more appreciative of the diversity in both Central and Philadelphia that makes GYU a club filled with different worldviews and ideas.”
“I was given the chance to be exposed to a variety of different opinions on several topics which allowed me to become both more critical and flexible with my viewpoints on several issues,” remarked Sariah Loy (275), Secretary of GYU. “By getting to spend time with all these students, I got to develop new friendships that I never thought would have happened. This club has made me become more aware of the world I live in and it will stick with me forever.”
Next year’s GYU cabinet will comprise of Sihah Joonhigh (276) as president, Natalia Munive (276) as vice president, and Ana Hallman (276) as secretary. With the help and assistance of Dr. Finkelstein and mentors, GYU is sure to continue serving as another classroom for dedicated students to learn and discover about the world they live in. The friendships and bonds formed in GYU allow its members to find personal and intellectual value in exploring topics and subjects that even politicians and legislators find difficult to comprehend.
As evidenced by its engagement in the Philadelphia’s community, free seminars, and volunteering with international organizations, GYU is obviously more than just another club name on a high school resume—it’s an embodiment of the morals, ethics, and values that makes Central the diverse, respected institution it is today, and, as Dr. Finkelstein says every time he visits the students’ meetings, the GYU students engage themselves to make a better world today for a better tomorrow.
Natan Yakov (275)