A core group of around 10 adults are putting their minds together with the hope of establishing a teen ministry for Centennial Middle School (CMS) and Centennial High School (CHS) students.

For nine months now, the startup team has worked to find adult mentors, identify possible volunteers and start fundraising, all in an effort to establish Centennial Area Young Life. Although the focus is to reach CMS and CHS students, the group will be open to students who attend private schools or are home-schooled as well as neighboring districts.

“This is a team of local parents who have a commitment and concern for local kids,” area developer and Shoreview resident Kevin Thomas explained. “It is so fun for me to see adults who have a heart for kids, get them all together and create a support network.”

Founded in 1941, Young Life is an ecumenical Christian ministry committed to making a positive difference in the lives of kids through the friendship and influence of caring adults. Young Life exists in over 100 countries and prides itself on knowing more than 2 million kids by name.

As an area developer, Thomas’ job is to go into areas where Young Life does not exist and help the community establish its own Young Life area. Currently, there are around 25 Young Life areas in the metro. Thomas is also currently working with the areas of St. Louis Park, St. Paul, Alexandria and Rochester.

Thomas was especially happy to help the Centennial area after his friend of over 25 years, Lino Lakes resident Tom Pawlak, asked for his help. After seeing the impact Young Life had on one of his children, he wanted to know how he could bring that to Centennial, the district in which all three of his children have grown up.

Back in February 2018, Pawlak hosted an informational meeting at his home and invited neighbors, friends and colleagues to share information about the organization and why it would be a benefit for the youth of the district. Since then, the startup team has formed, held more informational meetings around the community and is now entering the fundraising portion of startup before it can officially launch. Thomas added that it often can take two to three years to “build the grassroots” of a Young Life area. The main need for fundraising will be for a full-time staff position, but there will also be some startup and services costs.

After Centennial Area Young Life is up and running, youth participants can expect to have weekly check-ins with their mentors and attend club meetings during the school year. Another highlight is that participants can attend one-week camps during the summer at one of the many Young Life camps around the country.

Even though Young Life’s mission is to introduce adolescents to Jesus Christ and help them grow in their faith, supporters say the benefits go far beyond that.

“The number one benefit is kids get a sense of belonging. Ultimately, every kid is looking for a sense that they belong, to be connected,” Thomas explained. “Having an adult in a kid’s life that is not a parent is important because kids are only going to listen to their parents so much. Having an adult you trust who has solid values and is willing to invest in your kid is huge.”

“I have three kids who have all been through Centennial Schools. I have seen firsthand the struggles and challenges kids are facing from the pressures of overscheduling, trying to get good grades, sports, work, family, friends, social media, eating disorders, broken homes ... It is unbelievable what they deal with,” Pawlak said. “Our kids just need another voice, another person or mentor they can go to. Kids seek out advice and, personally, I would rather have them seeking that advice from somebody who is trained and has the same moral underpinnings that I have.”

Both Thomas and Pawlak hope adults who have a heart for kids will get involved in the effort in one way or the other, whether that means as a mentor, on the board, helping with fundraising or donating.

For more information, visit cayl.younglife.org.


Editor Shannon Granholm can be reached at 651-407-1227 or quadnews@presspubs.com.

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