Walking the Walk™ Youth Initiative at a Glance

 

What is the Walking the Walk Youth Initiative?

This nationally-recognized one-of-a-kind initiative brings together high school youth of diverse religious and cultural backgrounds.  Together, they gain experience, skills, and resources necessary to live in a diverse world, deepen their own identities, and break through walls that distance and divide them.  Every other week, our teenagers gather together to have meaningful conversations and forge bonds with peers in other communities and put shared values into action through community service to make the region a better place.

How does the Walking the Walk program work?

A Walking the Walk Network includes high school youth from at least three different religious traditions. Youth participate along with an adult mentor from their congregation or school.  Each network has its own trained Group Leader as well as Student Group Leaders who are Walking the Walk alumni.  The networks meet once or twice a month at each other’s congregation, where everyone explores the host’s sanctuary or sacred space. The students also participate in meaningful interfaith dialogue sessions. Participating students are divided into networks based on location and work with others to build friendships and work together on a service project.

What happens at a Walking the Walk session?

Typically lasting about three to four hours, the typical Walking the Walk session will involve some or all of the four major components of our Walking the Walk model:

Interfaith engagement opportunities which can run the gamut from sharing ritual objects to touring faith communities to question and answer sessions with religious leaders;

Service learning pairs our networks with social service organizations to help address a social justice issue or community problem in our region. These opportunities have included learning about food insecurity through working at food banks, fighting homelessness with Project HOME, and engaging with disabled youth at HMS School to name just a few.

Community building activities aim to help students feel empowered as valuable resources for the community, while forming supportive relationships with peers and adult mentors, and building positive identities. A great example of this is our students' annual participation in the Interfaith Peace Walk.

Create reflection which allows students to integrating their experiences and expressing what those experiences mean for them as young people of faith engaged in their communities in a variety of ways including poetry, journaling, and collage.

Who has participated in the Walking the Walk Youth Initiative in the past?

Over 550 teenagers of diverse backgrounds representing over 35 congregations and schools have participated in the Walking the Walk Youth Initiative since its inception in 2005.  Past participants come from a vast array of backgrounds and faiths, including but not limited to Islam, Christianity, Baha’i, Judaism, Sikh, Hindu, Quaker, and others. Over the past 10 years, the Walking the Walk Youth Initiative has worked with congregations/schools from all over the Greater Philadelphia Area, ranging from White Rock Baptist Church and Quba Masjid in West Philadelphia to the Islamic Society of Chester County and Westtown School in West Chester to Notre Dame de Namur in Villanova, and many more.For more information on our past and current partners, check out the Leaders and Partners section of our website: http://www.interfaithcenterpa.org/wtwpartners

Who is eligible to participate in the Walking the Walk Youth Initiative?

Any high school aged youth in the Greater Philadelphia area with an interest in interfaith engagement is eligible to participate in the Walking the Walk Youth Initiative. Applications for the 2017-18 Walking the Walk year are now open! Submit your application online here: http://www.interfaithcenterpa.org/wtw-apply

What is the time commitment like for the Walking the Walk Youth Initiative?

The specific time commitment for the Walking the Walk Youth Initiative depends on the program model with which your school/congregation will be participating. In general, Walking the Walk networks meet once or twice monthly on Sunday afternoons for three to four hours, with occasional other events and projects throughout the year. See the next question to learn more about the specific time commitments for each model.

What are the different Walking the Walk program models?

The three models we are offering are as follows:

1.  The "classic" Walking the Walk model meets twice a month from November through May.  Participants are high school students from the partner congregations.  In the 2015 - 2016 program year, there will be two networks, the Philadelphia Network and the West Chester Network.  Each includes partner congregations from at least three different religious traditions.

2.  The "semester-long" Walking the Walk initiative meets monthly for 6 months and is incorporated into the 9th grade curriculum of Sunday School/Religious Schools participating in this model, i.e. Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, Main Line Reform Temple, Main Line Unitarian Church, New Horizons Islamic School.  9th graders of each partner congregation, along with their teachers/mentors, will be attending the monthly Walking the Walk sessions.

3.  "A Day of Walking the Walk" provides high school youth and their adult mentors and religious leaders with "a taste of" interfaith dialogue and learning about different traditions through one's peers, not just books.

What costs are associated with the Walking the Walk Youth Initiative?

The Student Participation Fee varies, depending upon the program model.  The fee should not be a barrier to participation and scholarships are available in part or in full.  All that is required is your interest and commitment to participate.  In some cases, your congregation may be able to provide assistance.  Otherwise, please contact Anneke Kat at ak@interfaithcenterpa.org.

What opportunities are available to Walking the Walk alumni?

We encourage Walking the Walk alumni to stay connected to Interfaith Center programs. Walking the Walk alumni who are still in high school are invited to apply to be a Student Group Leader. Other alumni programs have included a college essay writing workshop, an intergenerational interfaith retreat, visits to other congregations, and community service projects. Walking the Walk alumni have gone on to do a wide array of things, including attending some of the nation’s top colleges, working as community organizers on social justice issues, working for Americorps, earning advanced degrees in various areas, joining the Peace Corps, and continuing to ask curious questions to better the world around them.

How can I stay updated about what’s going on with the Walking the Walk Youth Initiative?

Every month, the staff of the Interfaith Center publishes “What’s New with Walking the Walk?”, a newsletter devoted entirely to current Walking the Walk events. If you are interested in receiving “What’s New?”, contact Anneke Kat at ak@interfaithcenterpa.org.

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