International leadership role takes senior to Poland

B’nai B’rith Youth Organization (BBYO), is a youth organization for Jewish teens around the country.

Senior Briana Schwam holds the position of Vice President of Recruitment this year, and her main focus is to talk to rising freshmen from around the area and encourage them to join BBYO.

Along with recruitment, Schwam and other BBYO representatives work to coordinate conventions where members meet for fellowship and other BBYO activities.

BBYO focuses on leadership and a sisterhood or brotherhood with the other teens who participate.

At meetings, they discuss tradition, culture, and throughout the year, members attend various leadership conferences both locally and across the country.

Schwam originally got involved with BBYO because her sister was a former member.  She and her family have always been involved in the Jewish community, and she was the Jewish Community Center’s team leader of the year.

Due to her involvement in the Jewish community and BBYO, Schwam was asked to speak at the Emek Sholom Holocaust Memorial Cemetery in November where she received the annual Esther J. Windmueller “Never Again” scholarship.

Her speech was about her family’s past and the importance of educating the future Jewish children.

“Our voice can make a change, and it’s our job to teach the new kids the Jewish culture and tradition,” said Schwam.

After she gave the speech, Schwam was given the opportunity to travel to across the world to learn more about her Israeli culture and the Holocaust.

Schwam traveled to Poland and Israel April 9-23 for the March for the Living, an annual walk that brings students from around the world to study the history of the Holocaust. She spent her first week in Poland walking through different concentration camps.

“This is a big part of my life because my great-grandparents perished in the Holocaust,” said Schwam.

After a week in Poland, she went to Israel with BBYO and met up with other Jewish youth groups from all around the world for the March.

“The trip was fun but also really serious and emotional,” said Schwam.

Christians and other religions joined together to sing Hebrew songs about peace and remembrance and marched to show support to the Jewish students.

“Getting to be a part of the march and seeing students from all different religions come together was something really special and unique. Not a lot of people have the opportunity to experience what I was able to,” said Schwam.

As Schwam graduates this year from both high school and BBYO, she will still continue to serve in the Jewish community.

She will be attending Virginia Tech in the fall and plans to study human development and be a Sunday school teacher at the local Jewish Community Center in Blacksburg.

“Even though I won’t be in BBYO next year, I will carry the relationships with the people I met because they are now some of my best friends,” said Schwam.

“Although we all go for different reasons like leadership, for fun, or to learn about the faith, we all still participate in the fellowship which is really special.”

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