Coronavirus threw us all a curve ball. I never expected to run a college from the dining room table. Business owners became stay-at-home parents and cashiers became front-lines, essential workers – heroes in their communities. While this moment has flipped the script for all of us, put yourself in the shoes of a college student. Think about your own college experience and imagine being abruptly sent home mid-semester. For these students, the global pandemic went from being a meme on Instagram to an existential crisis in about 5 seconds.
We witnessed our students – like every other student around the world – wrestling with disappointment as they were pulled away from campuses, classes, friends, and – if we’re being honest – a way of life. Then something amazing happened. We started to see in our students, and others like them, the disappointment replaced with something else – purpose. That’s because these young adults have been developing more than book smarts. They’ve been building character, and that character is producing something we all need right now – resilience.
College students who are learning in an environment that fosters resilience are finding themselves not just surviving, but thriving in this time of extreme disruption. They’re doing more than keeping up with their studies and riding this thing out; they are adding value to their communities and their families. They’ve learned to push through and lean in. They’ve learned what it means to serve. Just listen to these stories.
First up is Savannah Phillips, who as a first-year Highlands College student who has been training to be a youth minister. Listen to what she had to say – “This season has given me a lot of time to learn new areas…and to push myself out of my comfort zone.” Savannah quarantined back home in Jacksonville, North Carolina, where she applied her training and developed new skills to support her home church, River of Life.
“I’ve joined the production team to help with live streaming. I don’t have a ton of experience with production, but I wanted to do whatever I could to help support and serve my local church during this time.”
Highlands College student Jansen Miller also dove into helping her home church, The Family Church in Lafayette, Louisiana, to transition from traditional services to online experiences during the stay-at-home order. Jansen helped with the production of pre-recorded services, edited videos for student ministries and found ways to make online services available across a range of platforms. Here’s how she described it:
“It has been both really fun and really busy. Since moving everything online, we have reached more than DOUBLE the amount of people than we do on an average Sunday. I truly believe that when the church doors open again, we will see a harvest!”
Wow. Such incredible vision and initiative from these students, and these are just two of the many reports that continue to pour in of young, emotionally healthy leaders that are making the most of this moment. That’s exactly what the world needs right now.
You know this well – the ability to jump in and add value is an indispensable skill in any context. But it can’t be learned from a book. As adults, we learn best by doing. And “doing” doesn’t come by accident.
The trick is to create meaningful opportunities to actively learn. That’s been the vision of Highlands College since Day One, where students complete a curriculum that places them squarely in the action at Church of the Highlands. They experience a full-court press of hands-on activities, which give them a broad readiness for ministry leadership alongside specific training in the ministry area to which they feel called.
Providing substantive experiential education is creating resiliency in our students. We are building a culture where students believe in their own agency, their ability to lead and create change, and they are putting it into action in the biggest moment of our lifetimes. Join us in cheering them on.