Interview with SOYO President Jordan Kurzum With all the demands on your time, why invest in SOYO?
We are constantly busy, but what's wonderful about SOYO is that it is enjoyable—it's not like school work! I really find it fulfilling, interacting with the other officers and serving the local parishes and dioceses. It's a great contrast to school work, and a break from studying, and it encourages me to stay involved in the Church.
I am interested in getting a greater connection to the Church and her people, and the SOYO NAC commitment is an opportunity to start serving now, at an age when many people aren't involved.
As an Orthodox teen, what are your greatest challenges? Here is a common theme we hear about; today, we are surrounded by the secular world where everything is driven towards a secular ideal. For me, a big challenge is to differentiate between the world and my faith. It's difficult when all the influences are steering you in the opposite direction.
It's also a challenge to align with the right understanding of Christian faith and practice, for there are many Christian groups. Some seem to project messages of hate and intolerance towards people. While we Orthodox don't endorse deviant behaviors, there's a huge difference between our approach to how we treat people who we disagree with on the issues of our day, like war, or homosexuality. We try to demonstrate our faith through our actions, and through loving others. And it's good that we have Orthodox peers and spiritual fathers, so we can talk about these things and encourage one another.
What's been special to you in your SOYO years? Right now we just finished the Special Olympics fundraiser. I've been a coach at the Special Olympics camp for four years. With the help of the Order we put on this camp, where the volunteers, athletes, and coaches attend for free! It's an amazing and rewarding week for everyone. The counselors take the campers on trips, to baseball games or amusement parks, and even those special outings are free.
You know, it's difficult for the families who are taking care of kids with special needs. When their children are at Special Olympics camp, the parents can enjoy a one week break and be refreshed.
Another great opportunity for me within SOYO, was to recently serve as a representative for the youth in the Archdiocese at the recent Unity Conference in Lebanon. The Patriarchate was specifically looking for a youthrepresentative from North America and this was really an honor—to have been given the opportunity to represent the youth of our continent was remarkable. It was wonderful to learn how well known SOYO is within the Patriarchate as whole.
If you could tell adults in the Church one thing, what would you want to convey? Please continue supporting your kids and your teens. Parental support and encouragement to get involved is really key; but also, encourage your teens and don't underestimate what youth can do. We are an active, excited, and determined group of people! We have all this energy, and when we are focused, we can do great work. Don't be surprised when we do amazing things, because we can—give us opportunities!