Gesu School’s extracurricular offerings cultivate unique opportunities for students to build on their academic skills and develop their whole person. This spring, four Gesu student leaders—eighth graders, Christian and Jamaal, and seventh graders, Cierra and Kyheim—represented their school and strengthened their community at the SpeakUp! event.
The SpeakUp! organization promotes open communication among youth, educators, and parents on critical topics facing adolescents today. This year’s event, hosted by Gesu on April 9, 2015, brought together over 100 students, families, teachers, and community members connected to North Philadelphia schools—Gesu, LaSalle Academy, and Hope Partnership—for an inspiring, productive evening of dialogue.
What makes SpeakUp! unique? The event is student driven—from five weeks of intense planning to acting as emcees at the event. These dedicated students also chose the discussion topics for the evening: stress/depression, relationships, and insecurity.
Along with an adult expert in the selected topic, the student leaders even helped facilitate small-group discussions. The Gesu team agreed that the adults and students “listened to each other well,” creating a genuine forum for conversation. Eighth grader, Jamaal, notes, “It was a non-judgmental environment during the entire event.”
Adds student leader, Christian, “We should have SpeakUp! here and in general to let kids know that their voices are important, too. That not just adult voices are important. If we have any problems or situations, we can always go to someone. I learned that it was a safe environment and that I could share, even something that I was not sure of.” The student leaders also acknowledge that their running the event helps their peers actively support each other, within their schools and neighborhoods.
We congratulate these young leaders on their commitment to voicing issues that matter and to building their community.
A highlight from this year’s SpeakUp! event was the presentation of the annual “JIMMY” Medal to Mary Ryder, Grade Two Teacher at Gesu and a true role model. Read more about Mary Ryder and the “JIMMY” Medal.
Gesu’s student leaders at the April 9, 2015, SpeakUp! event at Gesu School