For the first time in its history, the World Youth Alliance North America (WYANA) staff traveled outside of New York City limits to host an Emerging Leaders Conference (ELC). The first conference outside of New York, and the first annual conference at Benedictine College, in Atchison, Kansas, was held the weekend of October 27th, 2017.
The ELC opened on Friday, October 27th, with a lecture on human anthropology given by Benedictine’s Dr. Andrew Salzmann. Dr. Salzmann sought to identify what it means to be a human person. He spoke in-depth on the nature of individuals and the significance of the human body in mediating human intersubjectivity. Weronika Janczuk, regional director for WYANA, continued this train of thought with the opening lecture on Saturday, October 28th. She highlighted the essence of the human person, and contemporary ideological challenges to a healthy understanding.
Following Weronika, Dr. Sharon Sullivan of Washburn University, an expert on women’s issues with a specific focus on sex trafficking, offered a moving presentation on the absolute violation of the human person through the prevalence of sex and labor trafficking.
After Dr. Sullivan, brief introductions on person-centered solutions were given by representatives from the Brilla Charter Schools Network, WYA, and FEMM. Tess Lane of the Brilla Charter Schools Network introduced the charter school structure and partnership with the Seton Teaching Fellows program, while Jonathan Scrafford, MD, Ob/Gyn, introduced the medical protocols underlying the work of WYA’s affiliate women’s health program, FEMM (Fertility Education & Medical Management). Julia Kenney, director of operations for WYANA, spoke about the Human Dignity Curriculum (HDC) and its place in curriculum development.
Each representative spoke on the history of their foundation and emphasized the necessity of their work regarding the promotion of the dignity of the human person. The conference concluded with Weronika engaging in conversation with the attendees about how the mission of WYA could be continued at Benedictine.
The conference boasted approximately 40 attendees total. Students in attendance were highly motivated by the mission of WYA, and many have already expressed interest in a desire to learn more. Amongst these students were Sophia Glaser and Katie Greenwood (a former WYA intern). Katie and Sophia are both seniors at Benedictine, and they have begun the process of establishing a WYA chapter at Benedictine with the support of Dean Joe Wurtz (dean of students) and Dr. Jeremy Sienkiewicz (professor and faculty sponsor of the WYA chapter). WYA is excited to see Benedictine embrace its mission.
Additionally, progress was made in the local Atchison area for implementation of WYA chapters and projects. Benedictine College wholeheartedly welcomed WYA, and dates are currently being looked at for next year’s ELC at Benedictine.