Mentoring Rotation Round 2: CHECK!

The Healthy Habits Mentoring Rotation was just what I needed. It was really nice to have an older 2nd gen who is a few steps ahead of me in life to talk to about what is going on in mine.
— Irvin Granstrom, GPA 2012-2015, mentee

Our second mentoring rotation has come to a successful close!  14 mentors and mentees were paired up for a 14-week rotation focused on "Healthy Habits of a Life of Faith."

Each week, pairs received a short email focused on themes such as prayer, studying God's word, and friends of faith.  Along with a short introduction to the topic, it included discussion questions and related quotes the pair could discuss on their weekly 30-minute call/meet-up.

For Kai Wise, STF 2006-2009, a second time mentor who was paired up with someone in her own Seattle community, this was "an amazing way to develop a relationship with someone in my community on a meaningful level."

As a mentee, Mira Brown "liked having a theme, guiding questions, and having a regular person with whom to share- in short, the structured nature of the experience. I liked having thought-provoking material to read and discuss, and I want to try to continue reading intentional and meaningful material."  Another mentee “experienced that when I’m consistent with doing some sort of spiritually nourishing thing every day, my days just feel better, more clear, and more intentional and it's easier to think about how God is working in my life or be able to appreciate the things in my life that He’s given me.  I’m reminded of how impactful a condition can be.”

For mentor Hannah Gravrand, a 2007-2009 NGA graduate, this was a meaningful "opportunity to care for someone who is ready to receive support and a chance to be reminded of the things I still need to work on in my spiritual life."

I loved the opportunity to connect on a deep and meaningful level with a new friend! It kept me accountable to my own life of faith, my goals, and reminded me that I am still a work in progress.
— Adonia Hentrich, STF 2003-2007, mentor

Join us for our next mentoring rotation, a 10-week rotation geared towards the 36 GPA participants from this year's class graduating on June 10.  

The first few weeks home are the most pivotal for graduates as they navigate the transition home to family, prepare for school or work, and reconnect to the community.  By connecting each graduate to an alumni, the AA wants to help empower this year's graduates to confidently apply the lessons they've learned and take their next steps forward!

Each of the 10 weeks will focus on a different theme, guiding graduates to reflect on their experience and integrate their lessons.  We're looking for mentors who are 3+ years out of their own STF/GPA experience! 

5 Helpful Tips to Make the Most of College

Contributed by Mi Young Eaton

Mi Young attended STF from 2009-2011, completed a bachelor's in religion at Cornell College (Iowa) in 2015, and has since enrolled at UTS to learn more about Unification theology. If pressed to name a favorite author, Mi Young would name Henri Nouwen. Feel free to write to her at miyoungeaton@gmail.com; she's always happy to exchange questions, insights, and ideas.


The following list consists of a mix of recommendations based on both the things I did and did not do well in college. I hope these reflections will help you as you make your own way forward in college and in the years ahead.

1. Seek help: This is a time to learn.

It can be tempting in a high-pressure environment like college to play to your strengths and put on a good face just to make the grade. I know I did that often. But keep that up long enough and you’re likely to leave college with many of the same insecurities or weaknesses you brought with you when you arrived. Right now, wherever you may be in your college journey, it’s okay not to know how to write a good paper, how to be the lead in a play, how to speak a foreign language. That’s what’s so special about college: you have up to four years ahead of you to practice being the person you want to be and learning the things you want to learn. Looking back, I think I excelled in undergrad to the degree that I sought out and confided in mentors who could help me develop as both a student and a person. Your mentors can’t solve your problems or grow for you, but chances are they have both the wisdom and the desire to help see you through whatever questions, concerns, or opportunities you may be facing.

2. Trust your gut, but, whenever possible, articulate the reasons.

In the second semester of my freshman year, I signed up for two fateful politics courses, the first of which taught me not only to trust my gut but to articulate the reasons beneath my feelings. The course was an introduction to comparative politics, in which we studied the different governmental systems currently and historically in use around the world. I don’t remember much from the class, but one memory is still particularly striking. At one point, my professor began to explain how communism fits into the overarching schema of government; but something in the way she was explaining it made me feel really uneasy. Given my background of studying the Divine Principle on STF and growing up as a Unificationist, it seemed to me like something was off, but I had no idea what it was or how to explain it.

It can be hard to sit with and sift through these kinds of feelings, but there is great value in taking the time to explore and articulate them for yourself. Whether in reflection, essays, artwork, or something else altogether, as you gain clarity, you not only come to own the knowledge but you can also share your insights with others and add your voice to the conversations around you. The words and ideas of a document like The Communist Manifesto have indelibly shaped the course of global history for the past 170 years. But our words and ideas can have that same kind of impact if we take the time to understand and articulate what we’re seeing, what we’re hearing, what we’re feeling, and why.

3. Train your head and your heart.

College is absolutely one of the best places to cultivate your mind. You will be exposed to a lot of new ideas and you will be challenged to understand and speak about those ideas in sophisticated ways, which can empower your service of others and improve your contributions to your community. However, it’s really important in the midst of heady and enthralling studies not to lose sight of growing your heart and caring for the hearts of others. I had to learn, and am still learning, that it’s okay sometimes to put down the books and pay attention to the people around you, whether they are overjoyed or hurting.

It’s harder for me to speak from the other perspective of someone who has a natural inclination to be more heartistic than intellectual. But for anyone coming at this dynamic from that angle, I would encourage you to challenge yourself by training your mind, too. Care for those around you, invest in your relationships; but don’t forget to cultivate yourself and grow in your understanding of the wider world. I feel sure that your compassion and care will only be deepened by greater knowledge and awareness of the people who have come before you.

4. Seek out ways to create the college experience you need and want to have.

Despite attending a small liberal arts college in the middle of Iowan cornfields, I had the opportunity to spend most of my senior year off-campus living and/or working with a variety of different religious communities in New York and in England. Impossible, you may think, but it’s true. And if a small college like mine can afford to have the grant programs that made my travels possible, I am certain that your college will have similar opportunities available to you, too. The onus is simply on you to seek them out and to use them to the best of your ability.

I firmly believe that there’s a lot of value in classical education; I even wish I had more exposure to classical education and training in undergrad than I did. But hands-down, the experiences that emerged when I developed an individualized program and applied for funding from my school to travel abroad and immersively study different religions in my senior year were some of the best experiences of my life. Follow your inklings, think and plan creatively, and use your college’s resources to your advantage. They are there for you to use as much as they are there for anyone else.

In the event that you need to submit applications and sit for interviews to receive funding for your projects, the best advice I ever received to succeed as a candidate was more or less this: Show them how this opportunity fits into the narrative of your experiences so far. You see the value in it, the connection to your interests and who you are. You just need to help someone else see what you’re seeing.

5. Trust in the rich and transformative power of respectful honesty.

Heading off to college right after STF, it wasn’t long before I began to feel very alone in the way I looked at the world. I was the only Unificationist on campus, and sensing and fearing the possibility for disagreement and conflict with both peers and administrators, I largely kept to myself for the first two and a half years of college: sitting alone at lunch, building relationships with only a few key professors and mentors—even founding and nominally leading an intentional interfaith community on campus in my junior year wasn’t enough to pull me out of my shell.

As I reflect back on these experiences and choices now, however, I feel really sorry that I wasn’t more honest about who I was or what I believed. I still think that I would have drawn the ire of some of my more vocal peers by opening up; but now I can also see how my authenticity might have opened doors to valuable relationships and possibilities I could not have imagined or experienced otherwise. I firmly believe now that rich and life-giving relationships can only come when we are truly present to others; and we can only be present to others when we are honest about our beliefs, our values, our questions, our doubts, our hopes.

 

If all goes well in college, you will not be leaving as the same person you were when you got there. Be prepared to grow and to change, to walk alongside the people around you, and trust that your sincerity will invite God’s presence in your successes and your failures alike.

Best of luck on your journey!

P.S. A couple of practical bonuses just because:

Bonus 1: The best simple advice to succeed academically that I ever received in college, “Learn to think, speak, and write critically.” Here’s a website and a book or two to help you get started.

Bonus 2: Especially useful for humanities majors and courses, though others may also benefit: bookfinder.com. This site compares the prices and shipping costs of books used and new from multiple online retailers. Wherever possible, try to search via ISBN; that will get you the most accurate results.

Alumni "Rekindle" Reunion 2017

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Easter Weekend, April 14-16, found 60 STF - GPA graduates and past and present staff gathered at Estes Park YMCA in Colorado for the first reunion of its kind.

Alumni from 2001 to 2016 were represented; college students, working professionals, parents, spouses and young children.  The lodge was filled with both new and familiar faces, all connected through the common experiences shared on STF/GPA exploring faith, relationships, and our calling in this world.

Initiated by the STF GPA Alumni Association and supported by an awesome team of alumni - Camarie Eaton (‘13-’15), Emiko Cunningham (‘12-’15), Kaori Becker (‘07-’09), Yuto Ohki (‘14-’15), Mitsu Fukuzaki (‘13-’15), Rosia Schmidt (‘09-’12), and Tasnah Moyer (‘07-’10) the reunion was designed as a chance to:

  • Connect to each other and our STF GPA family,
  • Nourish our spiritual journey
  • Share our experiences and lessons
  • Create a network of support for continued growth

Friday

Friday began with ice breakers, a welcome, and some quiet time to set intentions for the weekend.  Though some had never met, and others hadn’t seen each other for years, by the end of Friday the spirit was akin to a large family reunion.

Saturday

Saturday morning was marked by “talk”imonies from Mike (‘02-’04) and Adonia (‘03-’07) Hentrich and Jonathan Jesper (‘06-’09) who shared how they’ve carried lessons learned from STF into their relationships, careers, and contribution. For Sean Garrison (‘15-’16), “Seeing how hard the elder alumni are striving for something greater and what they've been doing with their lives inspires me to do the same in my life.” Camarie Eaton reflected on how “we have an amazing support group, and there is so much wisdom I can tap into and learn from.”

The rest of the morning, participants broke into small groups based on their year for a more personal sharing touching on some of the challenges faced since graduating, how they’ve navigated their journey, what they’re grateful for right now, and what they’re working towards in their lives.   One alumni expressed how it was “so refreshing to talk about this with people I haven't seen in years and to share honestly where they are at. I don't think I would have talked to them about these things without the questions and environment.”  Another shared that “the best part was connecting to people from my year and talking about how we deal with life now and the challenges we currently face but with the freedom to be open and honest like STF times. It was a chance to connect more deeply rather than on a mostly superficial basis like at home.”

Saturday afternoon was a mix of free time and sports, peppered with three “alumni showcase.”  Josh Starr (‘08-’10)  introduced the “Phenomenon of Modern Boardgaming,” sharing his passion for the artful hobby.  Kaori Becker (‘07-’09) led a cooking demo, teaching participants how to make green tea mochi!  Jonathan Jesper shared how the principles learned in fundraising can be applied to successful business models.  A handful also hiked up to Eagle’s Landing for a breathtaking view of the valley.

After dinner, the group gathered for an informal Q&A session facilitated by Josh Starr covering topics of faith, family, relationships, and navigating our current culture.  Given the diverse age range and vast expanse of life experience and collective wisdom, it was a meaningful opportunity to listen and learn from each other.  The evening officially concluded with a bonfire and s’mores, but continued into the night with board games and meaningful conversations.

“I personally felt it was amazing to see older alumni and commanders, past and present and hear them share their wealth of wisdom. Some of the best things I heard actually didn't necessarily come from the talks but from casual conversations with them. It's inspiring to see that some alumni still care about the younger generation and are willing to lend that support.  It feels nice to know you have elders you can lean on.”  -Yoshiha Tsuchida (‘13-’14)
“I was glad to hear from such a wide range of alumni (parents, staff, recent grads) in such a comfy setting and realize how similar our struggles/victories are through our fundraising experiences.”

Sunday

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Sunday morning, some of the current GPA staff - Roland Platt, Kenzo Tanaka, and Francis Marsal - shared a short message, reflecting on the journey of STF/GPA over the last few years, their gratitude to all those who had come and for the chance to come full circle and also connect to the lives and journeys of alumni.  

Tasnah Moyer, coordinator for the Alumni Association (AA), then gave a summary of the mission and purpose of the AA, highlighted some of the projects of the last year, and upcoming efforts.  As a co-creative effort, alumni were invited to contribute their talents and resources to creating a thriving alumni community.

Reflections

The vision for the STF GPA Alumni Association is to create a thriving community of STF and GPA alumni contributing to GPA, their communities, campuses, professions, and the world.  It’s mission is to support the successful transition of GPA graduates in their first year of post-program experience.

Hosting an annual reunion is one step towards creating such a network of relationships and support. 

For many, this was a large take-away from the weekend to realize, “There is a lot of support if I choose to reach out. There are many other people with the same questions as I, and it inspired me to connect more to discover or learn together.”

For Michael La Hogue, a grad from 2009-2011 this was “a great opportunity to reconnect with people who I have a deep common experience with and reconnect to who I was and what I did many years ago.”  For a more recent graduate, Rena Kanazawa (‘14-’16),  it was “valuable in the way we were able to reconnect to the roots of where we discovered our faith.”  For another, it was a “great chance to reconnect and meet other alumni, and become open again to how a life of faith continues to grow with us.”

A “hopeful, encouraging, and refreshing dose of fun, truth, and inspiration,” “this reunion was the best combination of fun and love and those meaningful moments where we could talk about about things that really matter.”

In the words of Sirius Thurston (‘14-’15), “This was the best idea, can't wait for the next years.”

We hope you’ll join us!!

Fall 2016 Mentoring Partnership Underway!

There is something innately fulfilling about helping another person. It’s also an extremely stabilizing and heart-warming experience to have someone look out for you. That’s just the beginning of what a mentoring partnership can offer.

During the Fall 2016 semester, CARP, the STF-GPA Alumni Association, and National Youth Ministry collaborated to offer “The Mentoring Partnership.” The purpose was to facilitate connections so young people could receive the support and advice of an older brother or sister.

Forty participants joined one of three tracks:

  1. CARP track: based on Unification Principles
    1. Between students and young adults/graduates
  2. STF-GPA track: based on Healthy Habits of a Life of Faith
    1. Between students, gap-year program grads, or any young adult, with older students, graduates, and working professionals
  3. Youth Ministry: based on the Youth Ministry themes (Amplified)
    1. Between high school and college students/graduates

TESTIMONIES

Hear what our participants have shared now that they are half-way through the semester-long program:

CARP SPONSORED TRACK

“David [my mentor] seems like the kind of guy that knows the issues that I’ve gone through and it makes it very easy to understand and appreciate his guidance. We’ve set up goals (Matching 2017). The highlight is the older brother feeling I’ve gotten and all the insights he’s given me. I’ve discovered that you’ve got to know your one thing. It’s easy to get scattered in life and to get pulled around in different directions but if you know your one thing, it can anchor you. Like what’s most important to you. Why you’re doing everything you’re doing. I’m very appreciative for the wealth of experience. Would do it again.” – Alex Morris, 25, Mentee

“I like meeting up and checking in with each other weekly. I also like the networking aspect- helping each other out through conditions and connections. My highlight: helping Sasha get a job and supporting each other in developing relationships and our faith. I’d describe it as supportive, inspiring, and empowering.” – Kaori Becker, 28, Mentor

“Taking a step back to reflect definitely helps to move forward.” – Aiden Burton, 20 Mentee

STF-GPA Alumni association SPONSORED TRACK

“This brought back a lot of what it was like being on STF and my own journey to translate my experience into my life and relationships with other people. It’s helped me to value my experiences [on STF] more; and I’m happy that I have something to offer to others. I feel I have a lot to share and a lot of experiences, but I don’t always have an audience and someone looking to learn and gain from them.” – Adonia Hentrich, STF 2003-2007, Mentor

“It’s my only interaction with the church each week [since my school is far from the community]. I like how every week we make small action steps to keep each other accountable…[My mentor] fits the category of older brother really well. He got blessed at a young age, is part of the younger Unificationist community, really loving toward his wife, is having a family – the American dream of a Unificationist. And it’s really nice to see that he’s supporting his community. He’s a really good role model through the way he lives his life. And I could tell that he’s living a good life by the way he talks and the way he’s caring for me. I could tell his character and the virtues he holds that are really guiding him. I’m really lucky to have him as a mentor.” – Khory Wagner, GPA 2012-2013, Mentee

“It’s been really beneficial. My mentor and I started on our own before the program. Comparing it then and now I feel it’s more structured now, with the guidelines it helps us on a direct path – it’s leading up to something. There’s something designated to focus on, especially with the faith habits.” – Sarah Rendel, GPA 2015-2016, Mentee

NATIONAL YOUTH MINISTRY SPONSORED TRACK

“Thank you so much for this mentoring program. My son seems to be greatly benefitting from this initiative. It is very much appreciated and needed.” – Parent of an Amplified Mentee

“My son seems to enjoy it, as he does not have his own older brother. He can feel like he has one finally.” – Parent of an Amplified Mentee

“It’s been a good way for even me to reconnect and focus on my relationship with God, as I lead her through some of these conversations. I am very grateful that you provide the guiding questions, as well as short readings. They’ve helped me understand the intended purpose of the weekly theme.” – Mentor of Amplified

YOUNG ADULTS ARE WELCOME TO APPLY

During the Fall 2016 semester, most pairs communicated across states and time zones. Many have expressed the value of being able to be closer geographically, even in the same community, to allow for in person get-togethers and connection with the larger community they’re both part of. The Mentoring Program is hoping to take this direction and empower these relationships on a local level.

We are accepting applications on a rolling basis for the Fall program, so if you’d like to make a difference in another’s life (be a mentor) or receive support (be a mentee), learn more and apply at www.carplife.org/mentoring. The Spring 2017 application process will begin soon.

Feel free to reach out to us with any questions or suggestions.

With love,

Mentoring Partnership Coordinators:

Kaeleigh Moffitt (kmoffitt@unification.org)
Tasnah Moyer (tasnah@stfgpalumni.org)

Teresa Rischl (teresa@carplife.org)