Graduating from High School is a major event in any young person’s life. It is a rite of passage that is special and will never happen again. Our role as Young Adult mentors is to help our youth celebrate their accomplishments and make a smooth transition to their next road in life. How can we do this? Each parish is different, but below you will find suggestions for honoring graduates that can be implemented or adapted to fit the needs of your graduates. As students face new opportunities for independence and autonomy, be sure to involve them in some of the planning to see what their needs, worries, and hopes are and how you can support them best in this exciting time.
- Present graduates with gifts from the parish. Somewhere on the gift, inscribe a special message for the graduate from the parish. Include a card signed by all parish board members. Gifts may include an Orthodox Study Bible, Crosses or Icons. A special and useful gift for the graduates would be the items needed to create an Icon Corner in their dorm. Those items could include: an Icon, Vigil Candle and holder, Daily Prayer Book or Psalter and instruction as to how an Icon corner is to be used. A “complete package” gift, including most of the items listed above would be the OCF Connect Kit. It is offered in the eStore found at www.ocf.net.
- Publish the names of the graduates in your parish bulletin. Write a small paragraph about the accomplishments of each person and their plans for the future. Include information about the special work they have done or roles they play within the parish.
- If you do not already have one, begin a scholarship program for the graduates of your parish. Construct a plaque in your parish on which names of those who receive the scholarships could be added.
Connect with an OCF Chapter - The First Forty Days: High School to College Transition Research has shown that many college students form the habits and social groups that they will maintain for the entirety of their college career in the first six weeks of their freshman year. Thus, OCF knows it is critical to personally contact every first-year Orthodox college student so that they know that an Orthodox family awaits them on campus during these crucial formative weeks. Through OCF’s First Forty Days Initiative, our local OCF student leaders, spiritual advisors, and lay coordinators introduce themselves to all new incoming students, making sure that they know about Orthodoxy on campus and nearby Orthodox parishes. It is our hope that through this personal connection, our young college students will not only stay connected but will deepen their faith during their years in post-secondary education and graduate to be faithful stewards of parishes across the continent.
By submitting your incoming freshman information by July 15th, you ensure that your students will receive the full benefits of the First Forty Days Initiative.
Families Connect with Local Parishes - Leaving for school can be exhilarating and terrifying all at once. Some students have conveyed that having their parents attend services with them at a local Orthodox parish helped to make their transition to college life drastically easier. Having the support of mom and dad while navigating a new parish community made the first visit a positive one. Godparents, aunts and uncles, or other close family friends may also consider visiting and accompanying students to parishes near their campus.
Special Graduate Get-together - There are so many avenues and new experiences to navigate while away at school. From communal bathrooms to doing your own laundry, to fitting in your daily rule of prayer - life has expanded exponentially. Set aside a special time, such as a luncheon or coffee shop or a last hoorah sleep over at the parish hall. Be sure to let your graduates know that his time together will allow you to discuss the many changes, challenges and opportunities they may meet while at school. It is wonderful if you can invite some recent college students to join you to share their experiences. Some topics you may want to include in your discussions:
- How to keep Christ in your life while at school
- Experiencing different faiths and beliefs and learning about your own at the same time
- Finding a support system while at school (OCF, local parish, home parish college group, etc)
- How to handle difficult situations and temptations
- Making mistakes will happen. How do we come back from them and connect with Christ?
- How do we find our vocation and make whatever we choose to do in life holy?
- Coming back home from college may be a difficult transition - how we can be aware of our growing adulthood, while still respecting our parents?
- How to handle finances, schedules and stress.
- Ask them what sort of help or support they would like to see from your parish while in school?
- Let us know of topics you have touched upon!
Increasingly, more and more young adults are choosing alternative paths following high school. We want to ensure that these young people do not get lost in the mix, being that so much focus is usually placed upon those who are transitioning to college.
Take time to have a one-on-one with these young people or if you have several, plan another group discussion just for them. You may touch upon many of the same topics you discussed with those going to college. A crucial item is helping them to transition into a new position as an “adult” member of the parish. It can be a confusing time for a recent high school graduate, who has been very involved in your youth programming, to suddenly not know where they belong. Introduce them into your young adult group if you have one (or start one!). Ask them what their interests are and if there is anything within the life of the church that they might be interested in becoming more involved in. Is there somewhere within parish life that they would like to give back with their talents - working on the parish social media, gardening on the parish grounds, hosting a seminar on scrapbooking? The sky's the limit! Provide them the opportunity to offer their gifts - whatever they may be.
Keep in mind that some graduates may want to take a step back. Afford them that breathing room. Let them know you are there for them and check in periodically to see how they are doing and if the time is right for them to become more involved.
Keep in mind, whether it is a gathering of college bound or work bound graduates, spending time with them, strengthening relationships with Christ, mentors and one-another is the best part of any plan.
Orthodox Christian Fellowship - www.ocf.net OCF Connect - http://www.ocf.net/chapters/get-connected/ocf-connect/
The OCF Connect Smartphone App offers you the daily tools you need as an Orthodox college student and also helps you stay updated on OCF events, news, and media. Features include:
- Daily Prayers
- Orthodox FAQ
- Be the Bee YouTube Channel
- Events Calendar
- Chapter Locator
- …and much more!
Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA - www.uocofusa.org
Consistory Office of Youth & Young Adult Ministry - www.uocyouth.org
Facebook UOC Office of Youth & Young Adult Ministry
Ancient Faith Radio - Orthodox podcasts, video and blogs - www.ancientfaith.com
Online Services American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese - On-line live services - http://www.acrod.org/organizations/cathedral/live/
Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration - On-line Chapel - http://www.orthodoxmonasteryellwoodcity.org/chapel
Prayers for various occasions Orthodox Church in America - https://oca.org/orthodoxy/prayers