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Interview: High School ‘Acton Club’

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Members of  the “Acton Club” of West Catholic High School
Members of the “Acton Club” of West Catholic High School

Culture has either an overly optimistic view of youth culture, or an overly dour and depressing one. However, neither view is entirely true, nor are such disparate opinions very helpful.  The unavoidable truth is this: younger generations will have to bear increasingly more difficult levels of financial, and societal responsibility in the coming years. To put it mildly their future will not be an easy walk in the park.

However, in my experiences at Acton, I am witnessing a renaissance, a flowering of maturity in which young men and women are not waiting for someone to offer them a free hand-out, but rather are seeking a better version and a more compelling vision for their future. Certainly the root of this renaissance has been occurring over the past ten years with college students at Acton University, but the flowering I am talking about is happening amongst high school students.

In the spring of 2014, a group of students from West Catholic High School in Grand Rapids made an appointment to tour our offices and to learn more about Acton’s work. After the tour, I expected the students to simply say, “thank you” and then depart, but the leader of this intrepid band said, “Mr. Cook, we have a core group that are serious about our Christian faith, and we want to be successful, ethical and virtuous business leaders. We want to learn how we can live our faith as Christian business leaders in our world today.” Then he said something really amazing.

“Do you think it’s possible for us to start an ‘Acton Club’ in our high school?’

I thought about his request at length, a total of about ten seconds, and said, “Absolutely!”

And so the first “Acton Club” was born this past fall and these talented, and hungry high school students have been studying faith and free-market curriculum and books ever since; resources such as “The Birth of Freedom,” “For the Life of the World,” and “Defending the Free-Market.”  I’ve had the privilege of being with them and watching them grow, along with their faculty leader, Mr. Sean Nolan.  They faithfully meet once a week, during their lunch hour with no payment or reward other than gaining wisdom.

There is much that is wrong with our world right now, but with students like these, there is more than just a random ‘hope’ for the future, there is a viable certainty that tomorrow can be better than today, because these students are becoming the change that they want to see.  For them, tomorrow begins today.

Founding members - Spring 2014
Founding members – Spring 2014

Matthew Urbik is their unofficial leader, and here are comments he made when I interviewed him recently.

How did you formulate the idea for an Acton Club?

My junior year, the nation was in the midst of immense pressure from political and social controversies. I found that it was challenging to discuss such issues among my peers because they were either uninformed or uninterested. Many struggled to recognize the relevance of such issues to their own lives. Several friends of mine with a like-minded perspective and concern got together to discuss the matter. The unanimous consensus was to start a group focused on political, economic, and social issues. The idea was to incorporate our Catholic values with these current issues and ultimately illustrate how they are directly relevant to each of us. With a little research and help from our principal, we were able to get in contact with the Acton Institute and form a partnership.

How has your experience been so far?

The group has been a tremendous success. I think we were able to generate interest and widen the appeal among many students. Prior to the Acton Club, there was nothing readily available to students that intertwined religion with economics, and social issues. By exposing students to a whole new realm, we were able to spark a whole new area of interest in students.

How are the ideas that you are learning impacting you right now?

I, along with the other founders of the group, am very interested in business and politics. We all hold our Catholic faith to a high regard. It has been extremely rewarding to be able to share several of our passions with others and have them received so well. Many teachers and peers have been very optimistic and encouraging towards the concept of the group. My hope is to have a template model in place so that the Acton group can survive long after I graduate. In addition, we would like to introduce the group in other local high schools. I believe it would be highly beneficial for all high school students to be exposed to the curriculum the Acton Institute has provided.

If you know of a high school that would like to start and Acton Club, email me at mcook@acton.org, and we will help those students also understand, that tomorrow begins today.

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Mike Cook Manager of Programs and Educational Impact

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