Last week, the World Youth Alliance hosted around 90 Italian high school students and their youth leaders. They are from a group that comes every year to take English lessons, visit the United Nations as well as various New York City landmarks, and hear presentations on WYA.
I had been planning the day for them and so I knew how many were coming, yet I was still amazed at the size of the crowd when I went downstairs to answer the door. Each one greeted me as they all flooded past and were directed into the conference room where they made themselves comfortable on the floor. We had to open the doors so they could overflow out into the garden.
Mary Halpine began the afternoon with a brief overview of the work of the World Youth Alliance. I followed up her presentation with the speech I had prepared on human dignity and solidarity. Afterwards, we asked them to split into groups and we distributed poster board to each group. They were asked to make an illustration of what solidarity means to them. This took about 40 minutes and during the first 10 minutes most of the posters were still completely blank. I assumed that maybe they hadn’t understood the assignment well or had lost their motivation. I realized I was wrong when the posters started to formulate. There were some great ideas and artwork displaying real talent thrown into this small activity. The best part was when two people from each group got up to explain their posters in their thick Italian accents and surprisingly good English: “Thisa poster representsa the solidaritya ofa the countries ofa the worlda.” (Until then most of us had thought the additional vowels at the end of every word were only the exaggerated attempts of people imitating the Italian accent). We were all impressed by their efforts and active participation.
The afternoon closed with an opportunity for everyone to sign the WYA charter and go outside for some popcorn and lemonade. Before they left, they all sang a song for us in Latin. Overall, I think we all enjoyed the energy and enthusiasm they brought to the house. We look forward to their next visit.