How can you build friendships with youth who are different or think differently than you? That was the question for this year’s Black Catholic Ministry essay contest, open to all seventh and eighth grade students in South Jersey Catholic Schools.
Each participating school selected two seventh and two eighth grade essays for consideration. Diocesan winners were:
First place: Anui Roy, eighth grade, Saint Vincent de Paul Regional School, Mays Landing
Second place: Jessica Haddad, eighth grade, Our Lady of Hope Regional School, Blackwood
Third place: Hailey D’Antonio, seventh grade, Saint John Paul II Regional School, Stratford.
First place essayist Anuj Roy wrote:
“Finding common ground despite differences is one way young people can work to build friendships with those they might not have been interested in making a connection with in the past. …
“When we don’t understand something, it is natural to want to avoid it. If everyone shared the same belief system, wore the same clothing, listened to the same music and ate the same foods, the world would be a pretty boring place. It is in those differences that real beauty can be found. Noticing a shared interest in snacks, songs or colored clothing could be a way to start a conversation with someone. From there it can be surprising how much even people with differences can actually have a lot of things in common. Building a friendship that shares similarities and also celebrates differences can lead to more interesting experiences and connections with people. …
“We can learn so much from each other if we take the time to really get to know those that seem different from us.”