Esteem Program Helps Students Stay Religious During College

For many college students, it can be very difficult to maintain their faith. However, Marysa Leya, a recent Yale University graduate, challenged this typical view that college students will stray from their religious practices until they finish college and hopefully return to their religion. When Marysa graduated from high school, her biology teacher gave her a hand-painted crucifix for her dorm room. On the back, he wrote her a message that said: “Be sure to stay as grounded and awesome as you are now.” Her grandmother also encouraged to not “lose [her] faith out there on that liberal East Coast.”

During her four years of college, Marysa attended every single Sunday Mass and also discussed scripture on a weekly basis. She was also very active in secular activities on campus, such as drawing cartoons for the school’s newspaper, captaining the tennis team, and earning a 3.78 GPA.

“I can’t imagine shirking my faith,” Marysa said. “But how do you keep it important around all the chaos of med school? How do I become a meaningful member of a new parish? How do I allow the kind of experiences I’ve had here to continue?”

One way that Marysa continued to empower her faith was by becoming involved in a pilot program called Esteem that aims to keep Catholic teens active in their faith while they are in college.  For many students, it is easy to lose touch with their religion due to the stresses and demands of being a college student; this program aims to help students stay active in their faith by giving them the opportunity to become involved in a new parish by introducing them to a mentor.

Currently, Esteem is active on six campuses in the USA and is currently reaching about 70 students. The program began in 2004 when St. Thomas More, the Catholic chapel at Yale, received a $25,000 grant. In 2010, an unidentified corporation donated another $102,000 to the program and a pilot program was set up at Stanford, Yale, Michigan State, Ohio State, UCLA, and Sacred Heart.

The most important part of Esteem is the relationship between the mentor and the student. Marysa and her mentor, Dr. Cooney, meet once a week to discuss both religious and secular issues, such as career paths or which classes to take. The ultimate goal of the program is that the students will “let [themselves] be built into a spiritual house” and maintain their religious values while they are in school and even after they graduate.

Do you attend a school where religion is commonly practiced? Do you think this is a good or bad thing? Share your thoughts below in the comment section.

Via The NY Times








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