In 2007 over 140 students from schools in the National Network of Marist Schools, and beyond, will have benefitted from participation at MaristYouthLeader, a week-long leadership programme for students entering their final year at school.
Held in January at St Bede’s College in Christchurch, the programme provides training for student leadership in the context of a Catholic and Marist school.
Fr Mark Walls SM wrote and presented MaristYouthLeader first in 2002 to 50 students from five Marist schools. In 2007 the programme was held over two consecutive weeks to cater for the 142 participants from 11 school groups with some individuals.
The growth and success of MaristYouthLeader was highlighted by the fact that this year it was managed and presented predominantly by six young graduates of the programme.
MaristYouthLeader challenges the participants to adopt the notion and style of ‘servant leadership’ built, first and foremost, on the example of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper, and, secondly, on the example of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, in the gospels and the early Church.
Students are presented with key themes of Christian leadership and then given significant time to reflect as they work through their programme book. There follows personal interaction and a challenging mixture of indoor and outdoor activities that provide the opportunity for students to put their learning into practice.
MaristYouthLeader works on two levels: each student is challenged to aspire to the notion and spirituality of servant leadership in their personal life, and at the same time embrace it in the context of their school groups and mixed programme groups.
Prayer, liturgy and social activities, all constructed by the students and presented to the whole group, feature every day, and at the halfway point of the programme a day of ‘extreme’ activities led by the Christchurch company, Horizons Unlimited, helps the students move well out of their comfort zone.
As well as significant personal change and group learning, however, fun, new friendships and team bonding are very much the order of the day.
During the year the presenting team carries out followup sessions with the students in each school, and, beginning this year, the participants have had the opportunity to come together again at the Easter Event held at Silverstream — an opportunity to meet and celebrate the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus in the context of more learning, youth-friendly liturgy, prayer, reflection and fun.