At the Catholic Charities Kennedy Center in Harlem, high schoolers participated in a pilot project called Revolution of Change, a summer service program sponsored by the archdiocesan Office of Youth Ministry.
The three days of service projects ended Aug. 8. The center is located at 34 W. 134th St.
“This is about the value of the call to service, about social justice as taught by Catholic social teaching,” said Cynthia Psencik, director of the Youth Ministry Office. “This is about helping youth understand that we all belong to each other. All they have to do is take a step at a time and they can make a world of difference.”
Participating in the program were high school students, and their adult project leaders. Among the work projects was scraping paint from the old pool area to create an outdoor garden. Another project was stocking the food pantry set up in the auditorium. “They built four flower beds and spread out the soil; the old pool is no longer in use,” Mrs. Psencik noted.
She referenced a Scripture passage that aptly applies to the Revolution of Change effort, Matthew 25, where Jesus says, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me…”
“This is our first year running this program. We’re looking for it to become an annual program,” Mrs. Psencik said. “Each year there would be a different service site…The Kennedy Center is a full community center, with a food pantry for individuals and families, and for seniors who live alone. The young people were able to learn about the center and to interact with the seniors and help provide them food.”
Seven youths participated in the pilot program, and organizers expect more teens in the coming years as word spreads about Revolution of Change. There were three adult leaders, including Mrs. Psencik. All seven youths were from the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe at St. Bernard, on West 14th Street in Manhattan. It is a parish, Mrs. Psencik noted, that has a history of proactive community involvement, thanks to the leadership of the pastor, Father Santiago Rubio.
Among the young people in the pilot effort were Jared Martinez, 17, and his brother Angel, 16. “I had fun,” Angel said. “It made me feel good; it’s always good to help others, to help in the community. My parents told me about it; they found out about it from the church.”
His mother, Karina Martinez, said she and her husband are proud of their sons’ involvement with Revolution of Change. “We were very content,” she said. “This program motivates young people to get involved, to help others.”
And there are plans for more collaboration to come, according to Mrs. Psencik. “We’re going to continue this partnership with Catholic Charities and the Kennedy Center because part of the goal is for young people to learn that, in order to serve others, they don’t need to go overseas. There are so many good works happening locally—right here in their own communities.”