by Jericha Russell
I wasn’t sure what to expect from attending the Interfaith Leadership Institute, and I am glad that I went in without any major expectations one way or another because I think that made me more open to allowing experiences and lessons there teach me and mold my overall impression of the weekend. I found the most inspiration and education in our group workshop rooms, both within our own small delegation and with those from other schools. Seeing students and adult allies from throughout the country discuss their definitions of interfaith dialogue, form their visions for interfaith activism at their schools and in their communities, and create concrete plans to work towards turning those visions into realities with such dedication, hope, and practicality instilled in me a motivation to not let my last semester at UNF go to waste regarding interfaith work on campus.
The group of students from a local Atlanta high school in attendance was particularly inspiring to me. They had not known each other before the weekend at ILI, but they joined together with a common aim for their school and community and remained self-aware and ambitious as they made plans and set goals for themselves and their fellow students. When I was their age, attending a Christian school like they are, I had never even heard the term “interfaith,” much less had any personal concept of the importance of interfaith dialogue and cooperation. Seeing people so young with such convictions about this type of activism made me realize that interfaith work is not something I want to leave behind at UNF after I graduate in April. My experiences at ILI have led me to decide to actively pursue interfaith dialogue, cooperation, and activism beyond undergrad.