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Eastside Catholic freshmen gain unique cultural experience
Mahalin Gross sat legs crossed, intently listening to Veda Narayana Dasa point out the many similarities of the Vedic religion, or Hinduism, to other religions around the world.
Placed in the large worship room with more than 20 classmates, the Eastside Catholic freshman had previously only driven past the large pink building atop the Plateau.
"It's definitely different than what we're used to," Gross said. "It's really neat that we get to see something like this because a lot of people that I know don't."
For the third straight year, all Eastside Catholic freshmen made the short trip up the hill to the Vedic Cultural Center as part of their required Religious Studies course.
"It is an awesome opportunity to have the VCC right here," said teacher Lynn Kittridge. "To be able to bring a group during a class period is enriching to the curriculum, giving them concrete examples of the concepts we cover in class."
Kittridge, who met with the center's president Harivilas Das for an extended period of time last year, has learned so much about the Vedic religion that she is allowed to provide tours to her students if nobody else is available. She brought five groups through the center last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
For students like Alex Reding, the tour was eye-opening.
"I really had no idea what the base values of Hindu were," he said. "Just to see this, made me learn so much about all the other religions in the world."
Joseph Meehan said he knew several Hindi students in elementary school, but never understood the religion. Studying the Vedic culture the last two weeks, capped by the tour, was something he won't soon forget.
"I'm so used to Western culture and Western ideas, so I was like, 'Oh, this is what the rest of the world looks like,'" he said.
While Eastside Catholic has guest speakers from other religions, like Judaism and Islam, this is the only field trip the classes get to take throughout the year.
For Kittridge, it's hard to place a value on just how important the experience is.
"In our global society, the only way to survive and get along is to understand the motivating beliefs of other cultures," she said. "So, what I hope students will gain is a broader perspective, understanding and tolerance for our neighbors."
Eastside Catholic Religious Studies teacher Lynn Kittridge speaks to her students about Vedic idols.
A statue of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, founder of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness.