Teens hear message of service to the needy

A spiritual message calling for graduates to put people in need ahead of financial gain echoed through St. Bede the Venerable Catholic Church on Tuesday night during the sixth annual Interfaith Baccalaureate Service for high school graduates.

Roughly 70 members of the 2012 graduating classes of La Cañada Flintridge high schools took part in the program, which is sponsored by the La Cañada Flintridge Ecumenical Ministerial Assn.

Keynote Speaker Jesse Pickott, a recent graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, discussed his experience with the Tennessee-based nonprofit Blood Water Mission, which seeks to build water wells and battle AIDS in Africa, and said graduates must answer the call to help others throughout their lives.

“In Africa, gangs shoot at people just for trying to get clean drinking water. You have a decision in front of you, a story to write about you,” Pickott said. “You'll have to figure out what problems you will solve. But you were created to solve these problems in the world.”

The service also featured student testimonials and readings from the Bible, the Koran, the Torah and the Book of Mormon.

Male students wore burgundy caps and gowns, while female students donned bright yellow attire, some with the initials of the universities they will attend — USC, Loyola Marymount, Cal State Fullerton — stitched to their gowns.

Lora Morris, a La Cañada High School graduate, said the gathering highlights the theme of fraternity among students of different religious backgrounds.

“I really like it, because it gives us a chance to come together and [not] feel really awkward,” Morris said. “We see ourselves here as a whole class, and we don't really focus on religion. I think it's awesome.”

High school graduate Zaki Khan, who belongs to the Islamic Congregation of La Cañada Flintridge, said the anti-Muslim rhetoric heard in the aftermath of 9/11 did not surface while he attended La Cañada High School.

“I always had a friendly experience at La Cañada,” Khan said.

La Cañada High graduate Rebecca Burten, who attends Temple Sinai of Glendale, encouraged the audience of about 200 to “keep open minds to the religions of the world without losing our own religions."

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