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Kimberly Medendorp, middle-school English teacher and co-executive director of the Peace & Justice Academy, was invited to apply to this prestigious gathering of religious leaders and educators based on her work in starting the nation’s first interfaith high school, right here in Pasadena. She is one of 25 teachers from across the United States who were accepted.
As the religious landscape of the United States has shifted, it has become ever more important for America’s K-12 students to understand its vibrant religious diversity. The Religious Worlds of New York summer institute contributes to such understanding by helping public, private, and parochial school teachers teach more effectively about the everyday lives of American religious communities.
The Religious Worlds Institute is a project of the Interfaith Center of New York and Union Theological Seminary, with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Beginning July 14, the institute will bring teachers from throughout the United States to New York City, where they will work with leading scholars of religion, meet with diverse religious leaders, visit local houses of worship, conduct field research in a religiously diverse neighborhood, and develop their own religious diversity curriculum projects. This combination of classroom and community-based education will introduce teachers to American religious diversity, help them distinguish between academic and devotional approaches to the study of religion, and give them the pedagogic tools they need to teach about contemporary lived religion.
Medendorp feels strongly that “peace should be happening because of the world’s religions, not in spite of them. This opportunity puts me in the position of the learner and increases my empathy for my students, who are also learning about the different faith traditions in America and around the globe.”
This is Medendorp’s second east coast trip this summer. She recently returned from a week in Hartford, CT at the Religious Diversity Leadership Workshop sponsored by Hartford Seminary. There, she and the other participants – a gathering of interfaith advocates, clergy, youth leaders, program administrators, educators and other professionals from diverse religious backgrounds – explored the challenges of leadership in multifaith contexts.
Medendorp sees these learning experiences as crucial to her own development and to the goals of the Peace & Justice Academy. “The common ethic across all world religions is peace and justice, but we have to see each other as humans first.”
For more information on the new interfaith high school or on the middle school, please visit www.ThePeaceAcademy.org or call 626-345-0504.
Kimberley Medendorp, Co-Executive Director of the Peace & Justice Academy