Benedictine University launches interfaith mentorship program for high schoolers

  • Carrie Ankeny

    Carrie Ankeny

  • Saud Gazanfer

    Saud Gazanfer

Updated 3/21/2022 6:17 AM

Ten Illinois high school students from diverse religious and spiritual backgrounds have been selected to participate in Benedictine University's first interfaith mentorship program.

The program is designed to acknowledge the rich diversity of faiths in the suburbs and explore how and why we worship. It pairs each high school student with a Benedictine student leader/mentor.


"This is the inaugural year," said Carrie Ankeny, director of campus ministry at the private Catholic university in Lisle. "Our hope is to continue building bridges and (doing) interfaith work. We worked with several faith leaders here in the Lisle area to attract mentees."

Participating students come from Plainfield, Naperville North, Metea Valley, Oswego East, Warren Township, Glenbard West and York high schools. The students and their mentors will plan and participate in Benedictine's first Interfaith Day on June 13. Activities will include storytelling, an interfaith fair, and a service project.

The day will feature a workshop on how to be an interfaith ally. The interfaith fair will include 20 local faith leaders sharing their traditions, food, culture and clothing.

"Our hope is that through this mentorship program and through the interfaith day we will have built an even stronger interfaith community in this Lisle area," Ankeny said.

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Autism panel

Aurora University will host a panel discussion Thursday on autism by former students and parents of children with autism.

The "Neurodivergent Paths: Sharing Perspectives of Autism" discussion will begin at 6 p.m. in Crimi Auditorium at the Institute for Collaboration, 1347 Prairie St., Aurora.

The event is open to the public. Admission and parking are free. Sign up at

Innovation grants

NBC 5 Chicago & Telemundo Chicago are accepting applications for Project Innovation Grants through Friday.

Grant categories include community engagement, culture of inclusion, next generation storytellers, and youth education and empowerment.

Eligible programs will promote community volunteerism; encourage equitable access, opportunities and resources for traditionally underrepresented communities; promote access and develop pathways for emerging talent, diverse voices and underrepresented youth to explore careers in news, entertainment, sports and the arts; and provide youth tools for success, including STEM/STEAM education and entrepreneurship.

This year, Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation will award $315,000 to 12 nonprofit programs addressing community issues in an innovative way. Grant winners will be announced this summer.


Submit applications at or in Spanish at

Sisters fundraiser

The Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom and Parents Circle Families Forum are jointly hosting a virtual fundraiser at 7:30 p.m. March 29 for Palestinian women's vocational training related to wedding services.

The Parents Circle Families Forum is an international Israeli-Palestinian group made up of more than 600 bereaved families who lost a loved one in the conflict between those two nations.

Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom is a national organization promoting personal relationships between Muslim and Jewish women. Its mission is building bridges between Muslims and Jews and fighting hate, negative stereotyping and prejudice. The group has about 11 chapters in the Chicago region, including the suburbs of Barrington, Carol Stream, Naperville, Northbrook and Vernon Hills.

The sisterhood's goal is to fight against antisemitism and Islamophobia, said Samira Qureshi of Vernon Hills, Chicago region co-leader.

Parents Circle's work also "is in tune with our mission," she said.

"It seems so much like something we should be (doing) ... to stop the violence and stop the cycle of blaming and try to find how we can work together," Qureshi said of the fundraiser.

Register for the Zoom event at

To donate, visit

Crown Act

The U.S. House on Friday passed the Crown Act, which would ban hair-related discrimination.

Crown stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair. The measure passed in a 235-189 vote along party lines.

The act prohibits "discrimination based on an individual's texture or style of hair." The bill now goes to the Senate.

The legislation aims to address discrimination against people of African descent who "are deprived of educational and employment opportunities" for wearing their hair naturally or in protective hairstyles -- locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots or Afros.

Board appointee

Saud Gazanfer of Bolingbrook was appointed earlier this month to fill a vacancy on the Will County Board representing the new District 11.

The 41-year-old is the first Indian and Muslim American to hold a countywide office in Will County.

Gazanfer will be among six candidates vying for the Democratic Party's nomination in the June 28 primary for the Will County Board District 11 seat, formerly District 4.

Gazanfer is a Democratic precinct committeeman for Precinct 28 in Bolingbrook, DuPage Township. He was recommended for the county board seat by a group of DuPage County area precinct committeemen.

An information technology professional, Gazanfer volunteers for Al-Jumu'ah Mosque in Bolingbrook helping with security, event organization and community outreach. He ran unsuccessfully in April 2021 for Bolingbrook Park District commissioner.

Mental health support

Global Executive Council Services, an organization providing free social services, including mental health clinics, immigration assistance, senior programs and COVID testing, is expanding its reach to help more people throughout Lake County.

The group's mission is supporting women, minorities, refugees and immigrants to excel by educating, inspiring and empowering them to achieve their dreams. For information, visit

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