Young Life students

Allison King (from left), Elizabeth Richie and Kate Scott mug for the camera during a Young Life trip to Sharptop Grove in Jasper.

Like everyone, high schoolers are among those affected by the social gathering limitations of the pandemic. Many church ministries have put a pause on meeting with students due to the current restrictions.

But, despite the challenges of COVID-19, Young Life has found creative and safe ways for college student leaders to invest in the lives of high schoolers. Young Life, a ministry focused on introducing high schoolers to Jesus and aiding them in their walk with Christ, serves five high schools in Rome and Floyd County.

Elizabeth Richie, a sophomore at Darlington School, is a dedicated athlete and student. She has felt the effects of COVID-19 like most in our community. The social limitations of the pandemic have proven difficult for her given her gentle, yet outgoing personality.

Through multiple weeks in quarantine following months of online school, canceled soccer practices and a summer stripped of many traditions,however, she said she has found joy and a sense of consistency through her involvement with Young Life.

“Young Life during COVID-19 was hard, because we couldn’t physically connect with each other,” Richie said. “However, my Young Life leaders made sure we never felt alone during such a scary time.”

COVID-19 proved to be an unprecedented challenge. The unknowns of this disease have produced anxiety in teens and adults alike. To fight this feeling, Young Life leaders held gatherings over Zoom, delivered gifts and sent encouraging notes, all without contact with their high school friends.

Richie said she even received an entire cake from her Young Life leader, delivered to her front door after she won a virtual scavenger hunt.

All-area club meetings have been held outside at least monthly since August. Richie said these provide her an opportunity to safely gather with her friends from other schools and make memories. Club meetings have themes — ranging from celebrating every holiday in a single night to tacky proms and fall festivals — and are scattered throughout the year.

“Through handwritten notes, to games over Facetime, to even delivering me a cake (yes an actual cake), they made sure our quarantine was as safe and fun as it could possibly be,” Richie said.

The efforts of Young Life helped Richie feel seen and loved amidst the chaos and uncertainty around her, she said. Gatherings for high schoolers at five local schools are still being held outside with all students wearing masks and enjoying activities socially distanced.

Campaigners, a weekly Bible study, has been a part of Richie’s schedule for the past two years and continues to be an important part of her week. It now takes the form of gathering around a campfire with warm chocolate chip cookies.

While opportunities for high schoolers to safely gather have been limited, Young Life leaders and committee members are focused on keeping high schoolers like Richie connected and growing in their faith.

To learn more about Young Life and their ministry in Rome visit: https://floydcounty.younglife.org/

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