(The opinions in this article are opinions of the writer and may -- or may not -- represent the views of Interfaith Winston-Salem. It is written by Jerry McLeese, founder and board member of Interfaith Winston Salem.)
Congratulations to the clutch of students at R.J. Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem for forming the area’s first interfaith service club in our high schools.
Isaac Cooper, a sophomore who is a member of Temple Emanuel in Winston-Salem, provided the organizing energy for the club with assistance from faculty members Fakhria Luna, who teaches World History; and Dr. AmyBith Gardner Harlee, who teaches piano. Cooper will serve as club president until a slate of officers is installed in the fall.
Joining Cooper at the initial meeting of the club in January were Kate Carpenter, freshman, who is Protestant; David Hawes, sophomore who is Protestant; Noru Hudu, a sophomore who is Muslim; and Maddie Morris, freshman who is Catholic. Mrs. Luna, who serves as sponsor, is Muslim, and Dr. Harlee is Protestant.
The charter members of the club have begun to identify other classmates who will broaden the religious, racial and ethnic diversity of the group even further. The group is open to everyone, including those who follow no particular religion or faith tradition. The club plans to gather every other week.
The Interfaith Youth Core, which has headquarters in Chicago, was the inspiration for creation of the club at Reynolds. The Interfaith Youth Core employs a successful model on more than 200 college and university campuses that features three core components of interfaith cooperation: respect for religious identity, mutually inspiring relationships and common action for common good.
High schools in Winston-Salem and Forsyth County reflect the area’s religious, ethnic and cultural diversity. The degree to which these students learn to understand and respect each other will influence the community’s ability to embrace growing pluralism in the future. The action at Reynolds can be a model for students in other local high schools.