Voices of Resilience: Students Shine on Global Stage

Four Chaminade Julienne students and two staff members were invited to be featured on a panel at the 2023 Social Practice of Human Rights Conference and the sixth International Conference on the Right to Development hosted by the University of Dayton. This was the first year that this international conference was hosted outside of the African continent. The conference marked a pivotal moment in the conversation surrounding decolonization and development, particularly for Africa and people of African descent. 

Gabe Lawson, CJ religion teacher, discovered this opportunity through relationships he maintained from his time as a theology student at UD and, recognizing the potential impact of this venture, enlisted the support of Carlos Stewart, CJ’s director of mission and inclusion, to assist in making this experience possible. Together, they invited four students: Claude Kamden ‘24, Nana Osei-Obeng ‘25, Monique Njumashua ‘25, and Mitchelle Aniebo ‘26, to be panelists for the event.

Each student brought a unique perspective shaped by their heritage, their families’ journeys, and the challenges they faced coming to and living in a new country. During the open discussion, their personal stories echoed the complex narratives of migration, identity, and resilience.

Dr. Novea McIntosh, UD adolescence to young adults coordinator, directed the panel and appreciated the students’ openness to sharing their unique experiences. “Chaminade Julienne Catholic High School culturally and linguistically diverse students from immigrant families in the Dayton area shared their perspectives and rich narratives unpacking their identities as they navigate education in a dominant culture.”

“The students articulated their passion for learning in an inclusive safe space at CJ where they feel a sense of belonging, bringing their own cultural funds of knowledge to the classroom in family spirit,” she said.

“Their two social justice teachers [present] at the roundtable served as cultural mediators advocating for their students and giving them voice and agency as they too disrupted the status quo. This session was a true example of education as a human rights imperative as we collectively decolonize the systems to amplify the voices of immigrant and refugee students.”

What Student’s Took from the Experience
“I really enjoyed being a part of this panel and this experience. I could tell that everyone who was there really wanted to be there and I really enjoyed sharing my story.” 
- Monique Njumashua ‘25

“One of the questions we were asked was, ‘How does CJ contribute to your positive experience as an immigrant in America? That question really stood out to me because CJ is currently playing a huge role in this new phase of my life. When I first came here and was trying to find a school to attend, CJ was the only school that wanted to meet with me for admission because I was coming in halfway through the year as a freshman. Other school’s were saying things like, ‘Oh she won’t be able to cope, it will be too difficult of a transition, come back in August.’ It was only CJ who extended a helping hand.

“When we first got to the conference, Dr. McIntosh was really supportive and kind. She told us to be ourselves and to be open minded and told us if we didn’t want to answer a question we didn’t have to. But all the questions she asked were really great questions that helped educate the broader community about our experiences in Africa and our journey here.” 
- Mitchelle Aniebo ‘26

What Educators Took from the Experience
“This experience gave students an opportunity to fearlessly share their truth. It also gave them an opportunity to have a huge resume builder for college applications. Sitting on a panel at an international conference at a nationally known university is a pretty big deal. 

“It was incredible to see these students do something that most college students don't do - that most people don't do. The students were so supported by the moderator, Dr. McIntosh, and by the people that were in the audience that asked questions. The head of the human rights department at UD was present during that panel which was also really encouraging for the students to know that the people in charge wanted to come see this and hear what they had to say.” 
- Gabe Lawson, religion teacher

"I was thoroughly impressed by how our students expressed themselves. They displayed a true sense of authenticity and sincerity and were amongst the highlights of this great experience. It was more proof that our young people are champions and that the nuances of their diverse experiences make them assets to any space they choose to be in. 

"I believe our students felt affirmed by the outpouring of love and the sense of community that was on display at the conference. They were well received and found a sense of belonging through fellowshiping and interacting with conference attendees, particularly those from their home countries. This was a truly memorable experience."
-Carlos Stewart, director of mission and inclusion