Bennion Jr. student wins blog award
Bennion Jr. student blogs about religious tolerance, wins award
By Sara Weikel
What started out as a class activity turned out much grander than Mickey Roundtree expected.
A ninth grader at Bennion Jr. High School at the time, Mickey (Makayla) submitted an entry to the Tony Blair Foundation’s Face to Faith blog competition near the beginning of the school year. By early May, she found out she had been selected as one of only three top winners internationally.
Throughout the year, participating in the Face To Faith program at school was an eye-opening experience for Mickey.
“Not everyone in the world has the same opinions,” she said.
Face to Faith is an international program originally started by former UK Prime Minister Blair to help stop some of the vicious fighting between religious factions in Northern Ireland. The program teaches young people how to have civil discussions with others about their beliefs without preaching or passing judgment. After extensive training in religious etiquette, students participate in supervised video conferences with other program members their own age across the globe. These young people are able to talk about everything with each other from daily life to touchy issues without causing offense to either side.
Bennion Jr. High’s Face to Faith group most recently had the opportunity to converse with peers in Indonesia and Palestine.
The blog contest was judged by the religion editor of the Huffington Post this year, on the topic “a friend of a different faith.”
Participation in the blog itself was required for all Bennion students involved in Face to Faith, but whether or not to submit their entry as part of the contest was entirely up to them, said geography teacher Pamela Hunter, who is in charge of the program at Bennion.
Face to Faith wanted entries to reflect students’ real experiences on how friendships are affected by religious differences, Mickey said. She wrote about the close relationship between herself, a member of the LDS church, and an atheist friend.
“If I need a non-religious-influenced opinion on something, I can go to him,” she said.
With the world getting smaller every day due to advancing technology, it’s more important than ever for young people to learn to understand each other and work together, Mickey’s mother, Mary Roundtree, said.
As fun as the Face to Faith program was, it was also very challenging to learn to think carefully before speaking, Mickey said. Sometimes things that sound completely innocent to her can be deeply offensive to other people. However, once past the learning curve, this careful attitude actually makes the discussions easier because the safe environment makes everyone more comfortable and open to talk, she said.
To read Mickey’s essay as published by the Huffington Post, visit http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mickey-roundtree/face-to-faith-befriending-an-atheist-in-mormon-country_b_3188381.html.