On Saturday, March 9th, Salam School hosted their 9th Annual Student Convention. Every year, the all-day convention is completely organized by the senior class, with funds being used to pay for their senior trip. At the same time, the convention creates an opportunity for their fellow underclassmen to attend lectures and workshops that relate directly to issues concerning them.
Each year, the students choose a theme for the entire convention to be based upon; this year’s theme was Turning Back to Allah. A unique lecture track was developed for Middle School students so as to benefit the different student groups with age-appropriate sessions. To end an insightful day of lectures, the student organizers also put together an entertainment session for fellow students to kick back and enjoy.
Through this annual convention, seniors, preparing for the real world, gain organizational skills by planning the convention schedule, including determining lecture topics and times, researching and deciding which speakers to invite, contacting the speakers themselves and then finally, arranging speaker accommodations. Included in the convention schedule are lunch and dinner menus that the student organizers are also fully responsible for preparing and serving. The students not only participate in the event but they also serve additional roles such as forming a security committee to ensure that all things run smoothly, emceeing for the entire program and introducing speakers along with their topics, as well as other fine details associated with program coordination. Lastly, there are designated senior students who are responsible for running a concession stand with snacks and drinks that are available throughout the entire day.
Among the speakers that were invited were two educators from The Family and Youth Institute (The FYI), Duaa Haggag and Sadiq Patel, with backgrounds in counseling and social work, who delivered a workshop on youth development and addressed sensitive issues pertaining to the unique concerns of Muslim youth. Other topics impressed upon by the speakers from The FYI were mental health-related concerns, healthy relationship development, and healthy identity formation. There was a great amount of feedback from the students who particularly enjoyed the gender-segregated sessions which allowed for open conversations and deep private discussions with the speakers. Additional speakers who were invited from among the community are Dr. Hani Mohamed DJelmami, a local physician who spoke about the connection between physical health and faith, and Alaa Mohammad, a mental health & community educator who spoke about emotional awareness and positive regard toward vulnerability in the sight of Allah. Among the topics listed in the Middle School lecture track was one titled “How to Turn to Allah in Different Life Scenarios.” The Middle School students ate pizza for lunch, prayed together and then participated in another round of lectures. To end the educational portion of the convention, the students watched the award-winning documentary “Screenagers,” a film that focuses on how kids deal with the struggles of the digital world, which was followed by a discussion afterward.
With hundreds of students attending this annual convention, this educational opportunity provides an ample amount of benefit for both the student organizers as well as the student attendees. Not only are students benefiting from the convention’s program, but they are also given the opportunity to network with students who participate from other schools. Meanwhile, the junior class ambitiously takes notes as they mentally prepare for their upcoming opportunity to outdo the seniors with their anticipated convention the following year. Confident that this student convention teaches their students organizational as well as life skills, Salam School administration encourages and fully supports their senior students to keep this tradition alive. Ironically, the students report having increased empathy and respect for their teachers after playing the roles of planning, educating and guiding fellow students for this day-long convention, recognizing that their teachers do this on a daily basis. An event that serves more than one purpose such as this one is rightfully a highlight for the Salam School and the Milwaukee Muslim community at large.