On Wednesdays at around 10:00 am, the AFSC Chicago office comes alive. This is the day that all six of our new Apprentices take part in a skill-building workshop ranging from strategic planning to designing educational resources to lobbying and so much more.

Their energy is felt all the time, though, as each Apprentice also volunteers two days a week! In addition to the skill-building workshops, they acquire hands-on experience showing the human and economic costs of war, educating and advocating for a just peace in Israel-Palestine, engaging high school students in social justice work, and standing beside taxi drivers fighting for fair wages and safe working conditions. I caught up with Shirien D., a new Apprentice with the Middle East program. Shirien is 23 and recently graduated with an MA in Sociology from DePaul University where she became a student activist leader. I asked her more about becoming an Apprentice:

How did you become an activist for social justice?
I am Palestinian and my parents were activists when I was younger. In high school, I attended demonstrations during the Second Intifada and, during that time, I saw many images of Palestinian children killed in the violence. I began to read a lot of books and in college I joined Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and started organizing events and protests.

Why did you want to become an Apprentice?
I was really interested in learning different aspects of organizing and non-profit management. The skill-building workshops are unique and not something offered with other internships. I also feel like this Apprenticeship is more geared towards my interests and that the AFSC staff really care that I actually learn something useful.

What useful skills and information have you already been learning as an Apprentice?
It was interesting to learn more about Quakerism and AFSC’s history of being a part of social justice movements. Setting long-term goals as a part of strategic planning and learning effective ways of appealing to people for your cause were very useful. I am especially looking forward to non-violent training.

What projects are you working on for the Middle East Program?
I have been working on “Educate, Motivate, Educate,” a campus organizing conference that took place in Washington, D.C. the first weekend in March. I designed the logo, t-shirts and the program book. I also spoke at the conference on the campaign against the Sabra brand of hummus which provides financial aid to brigades in Israel’s military. What are your future aspirations? I am hoping that this Apprenticeship will help me decide exactly what to go back to graduate school for. Writing for a blog has made me interested in honing my writing skills in the short-term. In the long-term, I do know that I will to continue to work in this line of social justice work.

If reading this interview with Shirien has inspired you, then multiply that by 120. That’s how many youth the Chicago AFSC office is intimately working with in just this one year! This includes interns, Apprentices, Peace Fellows organizing on their college campuses, youth attending organizing conferences, high school students in our Summer Peace Institute, and college students in our spring break workshops.

We believe that cultivating the next generation of peace is integral to changing our culture of militarism and violence to one that is more peaceful and just.

- KAREN LIGHT, Development Associate