Youth Group

Senior Seminar for 10th through 12th Grade Students

An Opportunity to Put Values into Practice

Senior Seminar differs from other Religious Education (RE) programs at Shelter Rock in that there is no set curriculum. Instead, adult advisors work with the youth to co-create each year’s worth of activities to build and expand upon their leadership skills and confidence, support social justice causes, and connect with like-minded youth. This is done through both fostering their strengths and talents, and giving the youth a safe space to experience both the failures and successes of spear-heading their own events and projects. Taking on stewardship roles in this way gives our youth the most opportunities possible to become the self-assured leaders that we know they can be.

There are three events that the Senior Seminar youth enjoy planning and hosting each year that allow them to fine-tune their leadership skills. For example, the Senior Seminar class likes to go on at least one Midnight Run per year, where volunteers from churches, synagogues, schools, and other philanthropic groups distribute food, clothing, blankets, and other personal care items to those who are impoverished and/or experiencing homelessness on the streets of New York City. The youth do all the planning to make the Run happen. They coordinate the date with the Midnight Run organization, get the word out that we need donations, and the youth hold one another accountable to ensure they all show up with all the materials they need to participate night of the event. Each youth also takes charge of a station, from sorting clothes and toiletries, to making bagged lunches to take out on the Run, making sure each volunteer knows what they need to do. Taking on the roles required to prepare and distribute needed items to the homeless residing in New York City greatly empowers our youth.

Each year at the end of March, the Senior Seminar class plans and executes a Youth-Led Service. This is another event that is entirely created by the youth and for the youth to showcase their many incredible talents. Their adult advisors are there as guides, but the youth lead the way. The youth decide the hymns and songs that they want to sing and play, what readings they want to share, and the charity they want to show support to. Crafting and performing the entirety of this service increases the youth’s confidence immensely from all the encouragement they receive from each other, as well as the participants who worship along with them.

The Senior Seminar also loves to plan and host Senior Youth Conferences, which are overnight opportunities for high school aged, UU youth from various congregations to connect with one another. Conferences add so much value to the experiences our teenage youth have here at Shelter Rock, and are great opportunities for them to develop leadership skills as well. When planning a Conference, our Senior Seminar teens choose the theme that they want the Conference to have, set the schedule, promote the event, and work out all the details to make it a success. They lead touch groups, circle-up groups, activities, and workshops, and plan a fun talent show and enlightening worship service that brings everyone in the physical space together spiritually. These Conferences foster beautiful connections amongst UU youth and promote the leadership that we want our youth to strive for.

For questions, please contact Youth and Adult Faith Engagement Coordinator Jamie Walowitz, LMSW (she/her)