An international organization whose goal is for youth to develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, is finding a foothold at Champlain Valley Union High School.
Young Life, a nondenominational Christian ministry that got its start in the 1930s, established a presence in Chittenden County about two years ago. In addition to CVU, the organization is a presence at Burlington High School.
Young Life is a broad-based Christian ministry that reaches out to middle school, high school and college-aged kids in all 50 of the United States and more than 90 other countries. Its staff and volunteers affiliate with a wide range of Christian denominations — both Protestant and Catholic.
“Young Life young adults walk alongside teenagers to create a safe environment, giving them the right to be heard, a sense of belonging, and guidance toward their personal purpose in life,” said Tricia Sulva, a Charlotte resident who’s a volunteer with the ministry. “Young Life leaders substitute-teach, support kids by attending their athletic events, and create welcoming activities within their high school environment.”
Katie Nickitas-Tallman, a Young Life staff member, is a familiar face around CVU. She’s a substitute teacher, and her work with the ministry group has also prompted her to hold weekly Wiffle Ball games and contests.
The CVU administration has greenlighted the use of a classroom for a Bible study, Sulva said.
“The ministry runs outside of school. This isn’t a high-school group,” said Nickitas-Tallman. “We do fun activities, and we do offer Bible studies and discipleship.”
Nickitas-Tallman said between 25 and 30 CVU students have embraced the organization, and she said the ministry hopes to reach teens from all backgrounds. While the spiritual part of the ministry is its backbone, Nickitas-Tallman also attends student athletic events and lends an ear if kids want to chat while grabbing coffee.
“I think (Young Life) is different from a lot of other programs, in that we spend a lot of time getting to know the kids,” Nickitas-Tallman said. “What’s the most important is the value of the openness, and that’s upfront.”
Nickitas-Tallman praised CVU administration for its support of the group.
CVU Principal Adam Bunting said he welcomes activities that are both student-supported and that uplift teens.
“Any endeavor that the kids (find meaningful), I’ll be supportive,” Bunting said.
On its website, Young Life says it’s “a world-class organization for adolescents. Our staff and volunteers enter the world of kids, focusing on what matters to them — fun, adventure, friendship and a sense of significance. In doing so, we earn the privilege of talking to them about something that we think matters most of all — the truth about God and his love for them.”
Young Life says it visits its school-age friends during school hours only by invitation or permission from school administrators. Its policy is to respect the authority of the school and work within the guidelines set for campus access.
It’s a nonprofit organization, funded mainly by donations from individuals, but also with support from foundations and businesses. More information is at younglife.org. The website for Chittenden County activities is vt22.younglife.org.
The ministerial group will hold its second annual golf tournament June 24 at Hinesburg’s Cedar Knoll Country Club. Also, Young Life has received a two-year matching grant for up to $10,000 per year, Sulva said.