Last Wednesday, over 57 parents, business owners, pastors and those who just have a heart for teenagers filled the Windham High School library to learn about how the Young Life organization has been impacting teens across neighboring communities.
Founded in 1941, Young Life is a non-denominational Christian ministry committed to making a positive difference in the lives of teens through clubs located in nearly every corner of the world.
Wednesday night’s informational meeting was opened by WHS Principal Chris Howell. “I am excited about the opportunity to work with an organization whose goal is to build positive relationships with teens in the community,” he said.
Young twenty-somethings are the leaders who feel called to work and help teenagers on their playing field. They set up a mentoring program and network with other students in classes or on the sports field.
The club, as it’s called, will meet once a week for a “party with a purpose”. “It’s fun on their turf and they come as they are,” said Sue Arsenault.
"Young life leaders are caring adults who invest in high school students, supporting them during life’s difficult years and listening to what’s important to them. Young Life leaders help kids consider the direction of their lives, and they offer hope for their future," said Kati King, local Young Life area director.
This was followed by the perspective of Adam Hawkes, a recent graduate from Saint Joseph’s College and Young Life leader Dave Hudson, who both shared how the Young Life ministry has impacted their lives in the college setting.
Darcie Brown, a senior at Gorham High school explained how being involved with Young Life has impacted her. “I wasn’t really interested in God because I lost my dad to MS when I was nine. I resented God for taking him and I didn’t see the point in trying to have a relationship with him,” said Brown.
“But I talked to a woman at Young Life camp who lost her dad. She told me that she was able to see the way God blessed her even through her Dad’s death. It got me thinking about how I have been blessed too.” Through Young Life she found a way to raise over $17,000 for Multiple Sclerosis research and turn her father’s death into a blessing for others.
Windham will be combining with the established Gorham group. They have similar goals, said Arsenault. Each Young Life club raises money to support a salaried staff member and fund the activities they do as a group.
Even though Young Life is especially for teens, parents and other adults in the community are important to Young Life. In each community, the local “committee,” comprised of parents, alumni and civic leaders, provides a foundation of financial, administrative and moral support for the local Young Life team. Gorham parent and committee member, Drew King said, "One of the hidden or indirect benefits of Young Life is that it can have a ripple effect - positively impacting not just high school kids but their families and friends as well.”
Adults can support Young Life in a variety of other ways — by becoming a volunteer leader, by attending a Young Life fundraising event or supporting the ministry financially, by hosting a Young Life event or by simply telling others in the community about Young Life and its commitment to teenagers. Parents are usually in the background of the club.
Windham parent, Kristine Delano said, "I am involved in making Young Life successful in Windham because it authentically demonstrates what caring for others is all about. The leaders don't just talk about God's love but they build trust by entering the exciting and sometimes messy world of teens on their terms and on their turf."
Young Life is not church, but it is a place where teens can be introduced to it and develop relationships and be themselves, Arsenault said. “It’s a way for them to get the support they may not be getting at home.”
Young Life is also established in Gorham, Freeport, Portland, Sanford and soon will be in Falmouth.
The next meeting for those interested has not been set at this time, but for more information about The Sebago Lake Area Young Life, visit www.sebago.younglife.org.