(Bahá’í Community of Juneau photo)

(Bahá’í Community of Juneau photo)

Living and Growing: Empowering youth through service — the Baha’i Junior Youth Group in our community

We would like to take a moment to acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of the Áakʼw Ḵwáan, the original inhabitants of Lingít Aaní. We pay respect to the Áakʼw Ḵwáan elders, both past and present, and honor the spiritual wisdom they bring to our society.

The Baha’i Faith, like the Tlingit culture, places great emphasis on the spiritual and moral development of youth, recognizing their potential to drive social change and build a better future. Recently our local Baha’i community has embarked on an exciting journey with the establishment of a Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program (JYSEP), aimed at empowering young people of the community through service.

Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith, emphasized the unique potential and responsibility of young people. He said, “The betterment of the world can be accomplished through pure and goodly deeds, through commendable and seemly conduct.” This principle underscores the Baha’i belief that youth are not just future leaders, but active contributors to society today.

JYSEP believes true education is twofold: it consists of material education related to all intellectual fields of human endeavor, as well as education that refines character and the qualities of the human spirit, enabling people to make sound moral choices. When both these elements come together, the result is “light upon light.” In these times, when new challenges affect our communities daily, the Baha’is of Juneau, assisted by others in the community, want to empower young people to realize their true potential as builders of a just and peaceful world.

JYSEP is an educational process that seeks to engage individuals and families in an advancing conversation about the intellectual and moral empowerment of young adolescents — those ages roughly 11 to 15. The program is dependent upon the voluntary service of older youth who act as true friends and wise advisers to their younger peers. The program seeks to assist young people in navigating a crucial stage of life, one in which they shall encounter both tremendous opportunities and challenges as they investigate the world and develop their sense of identity. The program is founded upon the belief that those in their early adolescence possess altruism, a sense of justice, and a desire to contribute to the construction of a better world.

Following the Tlingit value of “Hold Each Other Up” and “Being Stewards of the Air, Land, and Sea” Junea’s JYSEP is established on the concept of service. Service is seen as a path to personal and societal transformation, fostering qualities such as empathy, cooperation, and leadership. In this spirit, our junior youth group engages in various activities that blend learning with action, nurturing both the hearts and minds of its participants. Through the path of service and engaging in meaningful activities that promote critical thinking, moral reasoning, and social responsibility, junior youth will enhance their spiritual and intellectual capacities. They will be empowered to identify and address the needs of their communities and become agents of positive change.

Our newly formed junior youth group has met a few times, laying the foundation for many impactful activities to come. These initial meetings have focused on building a sense of community and understanding the principles of the program. The group members have shown remarkable enthusiasm and a strong desire to make a difference in their community.

The junior youth group embodies the Baha’i vision of youth as active contributors to the betterment of society. Their enthusiasm and dedication remind us of the profound impact that empowered youth can have on building a united and vibrant community. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to all who have supported this initiative and invite anyone interested to join us in this transformative journey.

For more information or to get involved, please contact Adam Bauer at Juneau@akbnc.org.

• Adam Bauer and Soha Azargan are animators for the Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program operated by the Local Spiritual Assembly of Bahá’ís of Juneau. “Living & Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders. It appears every Saturday on the Juneau Empire’s Faith page.

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