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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?”

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Mentoring Program in Chicago Helps Children Succeed

For Rodzae James, an 11-year old in Chicago, life is rough. He lives in a run-down neighborhood where the kids are not expected to really do much with their lives. But James has hope for his future because he has a few good role models to look up to.

“I look up to my brother because he was the first boy on my block to go to college,” James said.

In addition to his brother, James also has a mentor, Justen Boyd, who encourages him to reach for his dreams. Boyd is a a graduate student at Aurora University; he is also family advocate at Family Focus Lawdale who mentors five students at Goldblatt Elementary School, where James goes to school. In addition, Boyd meets with students at two other elementary schools in Chicago.

“A lot of [these boys] don’t have fathers at home,” Boyd said. “So having me around gives them a positive male influence.”

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