An open forum for an open mind
By Carrie Crespo, Wake Weekly Staff Writer
October 23, 2008
Some attend for guidance, others for answers — and a few just to vent. But all of the students of the Wake Forest-Rolesville High chapter of the Campus Life program come with an open mind.
Every Thursday night from 7 until 9, almost 50 students convene under the guidance of Christian counselors to spend time with friends, play games and have an open forum to discuss issues of life, love and spirituality.
Although it is a ministry under Youth for Christ and has a feel similar to a youth group, there is one crucial difference — students don’t have to be Christian to join.
“A Campus Life meeting is like a youth group for non-church kids,” said WF-R Campus Life site director Rion “Burns” Bell. “We teach world-view issues — ethics, normal practices — and talk about struggles they are going through. They are able to share their views and share their thoughts without fear of condemnation or judgment.
“At the same time, they know that we as the leaders are going to share our views since we gave them the ability to share theirs.”
Worth-Wade Eaton is a senior and has attended the group for almost a year.
“The counselors are Christian and base reasoning off their ideals, but (they) don’t enforce them,” Eaton said. “Before I came, I considered myself agnostic. This makes me think about Christianity from a different perspective and in a more positive light.”
More than half the students consider themselves Christian and come to deepen their faith or ask questions.
“It’s helped me spiritually to talk out ideas,” said David Glac-kin, who has participated in the group for four years. “All of the teens are in one group and have an open forum. You can share ideas in an open environment without someone thinking it’s stupid.”
Julianne Cantrell, an 11th-grader, attended for the first time Oct. 2.
“I felt called to come as a Christian to answer what questions people may have,” Cantrell said. “I want to make new friends and share my faith in a nonoffensive way, and show what an awesome God I serve.”
For Bell, the mission of the group is not simply to help students grow spiritually, but to build relationships and help them grow.
“We’ve had a lot of students who come in really rough and rugged and really struggling with deep issues — family, depression, cutting, drugs. Hopefully, they can get through and past those issues — and maybe not even become Christians — but at least work through issues they already have,” Bell said.
By building relationships and trust, Bell said, the students may look at Bell’s spiritual views and judge for themselves to see if they are true.
“I’m glad to impact a student,” Bell said. “I can see them change and grow. There are different degrees of success. I have some that have gone on and graduated who haven’t become Christians, but I still consider it a success we were able to help them in their time of need.”
Unfortunately, this group recently lost its regular meeting place due to renovations. Bell said churches seem to be the best fit because of the lack of cost, the size of the club and the club’s mission. A prospective church in Wakefield may be the new location for the meeting; however, Bell said they are open to other possibilities.
Although this chapter is geared toward students of Wake Forest-Rolesville High School, other teenagers have joined. Franklin Academy Middle and high schools have their own chapters. Wake Forest also has a teen parents’ group. Bell hopes new chapters of Campus Life will form in every school, especially in the Wakefield and Millbrook areas.
For more information about Campus Life, e-mail Bell at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.triangleyfc.org.