Youths gather to discuss making a difference in life; 450 students sing, cry, share their stories


About 450 Catholic high school students sang "Day-O!" as they clapped and danced at their seats yesterday morning at Seton Keough High School in Southwest Baltimore.

But that was just the beginning.

At the 1999 Symposium For Life: Go Make A Difference! event, students engaged in discussions about everything from abortion to the Holocaust to land mines.

And as they listened to Steve Angrisano of Littleton, Colo., talk about last April's shootings at Columbine High School, some of them cried.

The morning included a round of Simon Says, during which Angrisano had teachers and students discombobulated. He gave out orders at a dizzying pace, from "touch your nose" to "wiggle your hips," and laughter permeated the Seton Keough auditorium as players goofed and were forced to sit down. Eventually, five boys and a girl were labeled winners.

After that, Angrisano played his guitar while leading the audience in "The Banana Boat Song," made famous by entertainer Harry Belafonte. Then the tone grew serious as the singer, songwriter and storyteller talked about singing at the funeral of one of the students killed in April's shootings.

He stressed that life is filled with choices.

"I believe if we choose to walk out this door and make a difference, we can " said Angrisano, 34. "I don't know you. I don't know where you come from. I don't know anything about your life. But I believe that we have a God who calls us to have the courage to choose life and to make a difference in this world."

Later, as Nina Paidas, 17, headed to a workshop, she stopped in a hallway to hug Angrisano.

Her classmate at Notre Dame Preparatory in Towson, Ashley Niller, 18, said Angrisano's talk was "the most inspiring thing I've ever heard."

The lecture gave students things to think about. Workshops offered a chance for expression.

In a session on diversity, Bishop Gordon D. Bennett asked students to share their happiest and most difficult experiences.

Sean Doherty, 16, a junior at St. Mary's High School in Annapolis, said he broke his back in a sledding accident and couldn't walk for seven months. A few students talked about losing friends to suicide. One girl cried as she talked about living with her father "through his first years of sobriety."

"Each of us has experiences in our lives that make us different," said Bennett, 53. "No two of us is exactly alike. Diversity is a fact. We make a mistake in our lives when we don't see it."

Patricia A. Baker-Simon, of the Crime Control & Prevention office, led a discussion on violence in which one student blamed hip-hop music for a lot of today's violence and another countered that rock-n-roll and other types of music could also be partly to blame.

Baker-Simon, 34, said she was impressed with the students' comments. "I think they are very in touch with the reality and the impact of violence on their lives, and they do have the wherewithal to make an impact," Baker-Simon said. "They just need to be heard."

Yesterday's symposium also featured a Mass with Cardinal William H. Keeler and a group lunch.

"I think it's a good idea because it gives people a chance to express their feelings about different issues," Chrissy Johnson, 15, a junior at Seton Keough, said of the symposium.

Brandon Toussaint, 16, a junior at St. Frances Academy in East Baltimore, said he was glad to get a chance to learn what he can do to help the homeless.

Pub Date: 10/23/99

Copyright © 2021, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad