Church Leaders, Educators Discuss Youth Challenges

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Photo courtesy Todd Reynolds
Among those who attended a recent summit of church and educational leaders are (front row, from left) Wendy Sinnette, Kip Glazer, Rosemary Johnston, D.J. Severin, Tanya Wilson, Sister Celeste Botello, Allison Clay, Father Christopher Iwancio, Will Moffitt, Lucinda Guarino and the Rev. Chuck Osburn. Back: Connie Knight, Peter Bachmann, Ian McFeat, Katie Phillips-Rector, David Gill, Jim Cartnal, the Rev. Anthony Keller, Rick Callister, Kyle Sears, Andrew Shaw, Eddie Mariel, the Rev. Msgr. Antonio Cacciapuoti and the Rev. Jeff Hoffmeyer.

Church leaders in La Cañada Flintridge recently invited educational leaders to lunch at La Cañada Presbyterian Church. The purpose was to better understand the challenges facing today’s youth and to identify some ways the local churches can be more helpful to students and their families.
Principals, headmasters, counselors and disciplinarians shared many of the most acute and many of the most pervasive challenges their students are facing in their learning experience. The collective wisdom of these educational leaders proved valuable to church leaders and will help them reshape their efforts with young people and their families going forward.
Representatives from La Cañada Unified School District, St. Francis High School, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, Flintridge Preparatory School and the Community Prevention Council had unique perspectives and shared some common challenges — stress, anxiety and depression were common, as were various destructive coping mechanisms (substance abuse, technology and social media abuse, and self-isolation).
Various forms of bullying also were common on the LCF campuses, exaggerated by boldness on social media platforms. The stressors seemed centered in three themes: 1) perception of success and failure defined by difficult-to-attain expectations; 2) self-identification crises; and 3) over-scheduling or under-scheduling (students seem to struggle with too little time for meaningful interactions and stress-relieving activities or too much unstructured time spent pursuing destructive behaviors).
Church leaders observed the depth of understanding the educational leaders had, as well as their compassion and determination to help students and families cope with and overcome their individual challenges.
Solutions were also part of the conversation, including increased communication about community events that might help students and their families. More uniform messages from the pulpits in town were also suggested as a way of disseminating helpful ideas and practices for families to consider.
The Rev. Chuck Osburn facilitated the conversation, keeping the focus on hearing what educational leaders could teach the church leaders.
“We wanted to listen today,” he said. “God speaks to us in many ways. Today it was through these great people that are at the heart of educating our young people. As church leaders, we can use this information to help inform our ministerial activities. This was extremely helpful.”

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