Last Friday, we had our annual Senior Night in youth group. You can see a picture of our group below with our Oh, the Places You’ll Go Dr. Seuss theme. This tradition started my senior year of high school when some of our youth counselors visited my friend’s Senior Night for her gymnastics team at school. It was to honor the graduating seniors and to send them off to college well. They thought it was a pretty good idea, so my class–the class of 2003–was the first high school graduating class at CCUC-North to go through Senior Night.
Here I am, seven years later, as a youth counselor for this same youth group. It’s incredible to see (and I think this is more true for my former youth counselors) how my own life has come full circle in this way. My various counselors over the years–Thomas, Elton, Jed, Michele, Ted, and Susan–have done their job well. It’s such an honor and privilege to be back in my home church serving the youth group that so greatly influenced and shaped me as an adolescent.
This is a picture of our CCUC-N 2003 high school grads (before the youth group became SNL–we didn’t have a name). From left to right is Wenny, Ryan, Bryan, Priscilla, and me.
So where are we now?
Wenny has been doing AmeriCorp after working for a couple years at Quaker with Gatorade. This fall she’ll be heading to grad school at Stanford University. She has matured in her faith greatly since her high school days when we didn’t really see her at youth group much because she was so involved in sports. This changed more in college and I know she’ still seeking to serve the Lord with her life, wherever He may guide her in the future. We’re also “twins” because we were born on the same day, same year, just 15 minutes apart. I’m the slightly older one.
I recently got connected again with Ryan after all these years now that he’s back in Chicago post-college. He transferred schools a few times and I think changed his major too–finishing with graphic design and advertising, I believe. I saw him a couple months ago when he hung out with our young adult group and we played some old card games (like Screwy Louie), which we used to play in youth group. He also came on our youth group ski trip where he showed off his crazy skills because he’s Canadian and everyone up there knows how to ski. Ryan now goes to Chinese Christian Bible Church of Oak Park.
I haven’t talked to Bryan in years! I did see him about 3 years ago (Dec. 2006) though at the Urbana Student Missions Conference. After high school, he went to college in Canada (where he’s from) and ended up switching schools a lot, but I think he’s done now. I think he was also involved in his Asian Christian Fellowship in school as well.
Priscilla was my best friend for many years. We met in kindergarten and were friends through elementary school until our schools split into two and she went to a different school (3rd grade, I think). I reconnected with her in 5th or 6th grade, but our friendship became stronger again in junior high (7th grade). That’s when she started coming to youth group with me, then eventually to church, and became a Christian. We were practically inseparable since then and even called ourselves “Pristy Chong,” a combination of both our names. I have so many good memories with Priscilla, but starting our senior year of high school and then into college, we kind of drifted apart. I think Priscilla was also drifting away from her relationship from God as well, and unfortunately lost her life in a car accident on August 6, 2006. Even though I hadn’t really seen Priscilla much in those three years since we graduated high school until her death, I still, even today, can’t really believe that she’s not here. I struggled too with wondering where she was in her relationship with God and wondering if I’ll see her again in Heaven some day. I still struggle with that a little bit, but I know that in my times in youth group with her, she was completely passionate about her relationship with Jesus Christ.
So our class beat the odds of high school seniors walking away from their faith, right? The majority of us are still involved in our local churches and still have a relationship with Christ. Though we go through our own struggles, we make mistakes, we’re still trying to follow Him.
As I was packing up my room for my upcoming move to my own apartment, I found a youth group yearbook I made for our group my senior year of high school (2003). I was on the yearbook staff in high school, so I can see why I was so passionate about creating this for the group. I forgot our unofficial name, W.H.A.C.K.–Whoa, Happy Asian Christian Kids! haha. As I read what I wrote to describe the theme, which had to do with a remote control–about pushing pause, play, and fast forward on life–I was somewhat surprised to see that my writing was very similar to something I would have written now, seven years later. Of course, my knowledge of God and the Bible has increased since then, but what strikes me in finding all these old things I’ve done for youth group when I was in high school, is my initiative in starting projects like this or even overseeing all the committees for our youth retreat even though we didn’t have a student leadership team at the time. I guess it just came naturally to me and those were things I wanted to do. Pearson (another youth leader) and I were talking about how that seems to be something our youth group lacks.
It’s not that I think I was better than our kids when I was in high school–I don’t think that at all. In fact, some of our teens have a better understanding of God and the Bible than I did at their age. Somehow we have to motivate them to step up and take initiative–to take ownership of their youth group and to use the gifts and talents God has given them to serve. Our youth leaders didn’t suggest that we make a yearbook or awards for all the youth group members on my Senior Night. I just thought it would be a good idea and got my sister to help me do it. I’m not sure how I had time to even do that during my busy senior year. So that’s something God has placed on my heart for our youth group–to raise up leaders and to encourage them to lead and serve. It’s something I can struggle with because I like to do a lot of things myself and then just have people help me. It’s usually because I think I can do things better if I do them myself. Wrong attitude! I think now I need to be in that helper position and to let the youth try their hand at leading. If they make mistakes or it doesn’t work it, it’s okay. They learn from it and will be come better leaders.
Where has your own high school senior class gone since graduating from youth group? How do you motivate your youth to step up and lead?