Students take to street to raise funds

What began as a club to raise awareness of social issues has turned into a fundraiser that stretches beyond the Marist School campus.

Four years ago, the Share the Journey club was launched to explore the refugee experience. It grew from a theology class that put students in mock scenarios where they spoke different languages, confronted border guards, and had food and water rationed.

“Some students were interested in doing something in response to that, so they began meeting before school,” said Bernadette Naro, Marist’s campus minister. “After a year, it became an official club.”

Since then about 15 members have been actively involved in raising consciousness around refugee issues. They put signs around campus about refugee conditions, lobbied with refugee service organizations at the state capitol, visited people detained at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin and tutored students in Clarkston.

In 2019, the group launched what was to become an annual event. About 60 students and supporters gathered at St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Decatur and walked to Clarkston.

Though COVID quashed the 2020 event, a bigger gathering took place in May with about 140 participants, including students from St. Pius X Catholic High School, Cristo Rey Jesuit High and St. Thomas More. For the first time, the walk was a fundraiser, collecting about $2,000 for area refugee organizations the group has partnered with or supported.

Moira Ujda was among the Marist students who made the trek this year. She joined the club in 10th grade.

“I joined because I liked the action-based model,” said Ujda. “It was a way to share the journey with immigrants worldwide and to do something about the news I was reading. Its purpose was also closely rooted to my faith’s social teaching and interest in social justice. It put my faith into action.”

Along the 6-mile route to Clarkston, the walkers stopped to hear refugee stories and share their experiences.

“It was a really powerful day with the different groups sharing and hearing those experiences,” said Naro. “It was so overwhelmingly positive. And it also made me feel like my job has been worthwhile.”

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