Life lessons learned, no matter your faith

The Southerner

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Should Young Life (a religiously affiliated program) be allowed to host events on Grady’s campus?  

BY EMMA KASPER

The Young Life website responds to the question, “What is Young Life?” with “Young Life doesn’t start with a program. It starts with adults who are concerned enough about kids to go to them, on their turf and in their culture, building bridges of authentic friendship.” Young Life is a well-established ministry recognized in all 50 states as well as more than 70 countries around the world and is a nondenominational outreach program for middle school, high school and college students. Young Life is also all about fun. From clubs to camps, students try new things and commune with their friends. Young Life leaders are committed to being involved in kids’ lives–from supporting them at their sporting events to listening to them talk about their values.

Religion is not usually included in a public school curriculum. Religion, however, can be a source of inspiration, education and growth. Religion-based groups such as Young Life can and do en- courage open-mindedness and tolerance. Religion is important in many students’ lives. Young Life at Grady provides a place for its members to be able to learn about Christianity or simply enjoy the company of their peers.

Young Life does not breach the separation between church and state. With the Equal Access Act, a federally funded school that sponsors at least one non-curricular student group to meet on campus grounds must allow all other extracurricular clubs to meet—including religious groups. Although the argument is that Young Life, a religious-affiliated club, should not be allowed to meet on Grady’s campus, all of the religious aspects of the club take place off campus. Campaigners is a group branching from Young Life that meets weekly for Bible study at another location. Because its religious activities do not take place on Grady’s campus, Young Life has every right to be on school grounds.

The main Young Life attraction during the school year is a weekly gathering called “club.” Club involves a brief talk that relates a scenario to a verse in the Bible. Attending a weekend or weeklong camp once or twice each school year is also a regular Young Life activity. During the last weekend in October, I experienced my first Young Life camp at SharpTop Cove. SharpTop is tucked away in the North Georgia Mountains an hour outside of Atlanta. The miles and miles of mountain range, as well as the starry nights, were breathtaking. From the challenge and thrill of rock climbing and leaping from 40-foot poles to establishing new friendships over countless games of corn hole and frisbee golf, there was never a dull moment while at camp. SharpTop was the perfect environment to step back from the business of everyday life and into nature. It allows campers to have fun with their friends and their Young Life leaders. The time I spent at SharpTop Cove was no doubt one of the best weekends of my life. It was an experience I believe anyone would enjoy.

Even though any religious group is allowed to form a club, Young Life is the only religious club at Grady. Membership in Young Life is open to all interested and attendance is not mandatory. I joined Young Life this year, but I have friends who have been involved with the club much longer. They never pressured me into joining, but when I did they welcomed me as they would anyone else. Since joining Young Life I feel I have become more aware of my beliefs and have gained many incredible mentors. Young Life has taught me that there are no guidelines as to what you have to believe in. Your beliefs are your own. They are allowed, they are accepted and they are appreciated at Young Life. It is through the diverse clubs that are offered here that we are able to claim, “Individually we are different, but together we are Grady.”

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