Gathering Profiles is a series about Friends we’ve met at the FGC Gathering. The Gathering team will publish a new profile each month as we get closer to FGC Gathering 2020.
Faith in our Future: Aurelio Anderson and High School Staff
In this month's Gathering Profile, we highlight Aurelio Anderson, one of our High School program’s dedicated staff. Aurelio first came to Gathering the summer after 11th grade. His father introduced him to Quakerism after moving to Tallahassee, and it resonated with Aurelio. “Traditional church never appealed to me,” said Aurelio, “I gravitated to meeting in silence even as young as third grade.”
Aurelio became involved with his Yearly Meeting’s youth program and from there, learned about FGC. At the time, his youth group was organizing around farm worker solidarity. Aurelio’s first FGC Gathering in Colorado featured a non-violent direct action in support of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, demanding better pay and treatment for farm workers.
“I think of the impact of that action now, and that I was a part of that coming forward at 17 years old,” reflects Aurelio, “I didn’t realize the impact of what I was doing until later. We’re seeing so much of today’s youth doing amazing things because they don’t realize how impressive it is, they’re just living in the moment.”
Beyond the direct action, Aurelio was transformed by his first Gathering. “I had never experienced a Quaker community like that before. It was truly life changing. I’ve attended every year since.”
When a previous High School coordinator reached out to invite Aurelio onto staff a few years after he graduated, he was nervous but felt the calling to serve his community. As a counselor, Aurelio explains that there is constant learning every year. He works to improve himself each year and to strike the balance of supporting the youth participants and maintaining the community guidelines. Aurelio values the program, which “for participants is the one week of the year that they feel like they can be themselves and free of the judgement of their regular daily lives.”
Speaking from his own experience as a youth participant, “It was Gathering 2013 that affirmed my belief that I wanted to be a Quaker. It was my second year that gave me more clarity on where I wanted the direction of my life to go.” As staff, Aurelio has been most surprised by “how much the participants really care about the program and will do anything to maintain it at the end of the day. They really want the space to continue at whatever cost it takes.”
Serving on High School staff, “means maintaining my faith in our future.” Aurelio explains his intention as staff is for youth to know “that there is a generation that cares and wants to change a lot of wrong that have been done around the world. I always say the High School program is just as important for staff as it is for the participants.” Serving on staff is a team experience, working to create the best experience possible for youth participants. Aurelio’s favorite part of Gathering are the plenaries and the People of Color Gathering space. He says, “I don’t get a lot of time in there, but whenever I do, it’s been one of the most impactful parts of Gathering.”
When he’s not at Gathering, Aurelio is a student at Florida A&M University where he studies political science. He also is an assistant manager at Panera Bread. He loves doing stand-up comedy in his free time and works with FCNL on their Outreach and Governance committees. Even with such a busy life, Aurelio keeps Gathering in mind.
“Once I get out of one Gathering, I’m already looking forward to the next. I always try to set guidelines for myself to maintain throughout the year after Gathering trying to make myself a better person, and a better Quaker.”