Young Life welcomes all OPRF students

OPRF Young Life is not your typical religious group. With its events packed with OPRF students playing games and building friendships, OPRF Young Life emphasizes community over anything else.

Young Life is a worldwide organization that aims to connect young people to the Christian faith. However, Kevin Radzinski, area director at Young Life in OPRF, wants to make events welcoming of all backgrounds and religions. “Kids are never made to feel like if they don’t believe this, they’re not like a part of this (Young Life),” he says. “We’re always encouraging kids to embrace their own family heritage.”

OPRF Young Life club events were held every Thursday during their fall semester, involving various games and activities, as well as a biblical story told by Radzinski to finish off the night. “The stories at the end try to tell the basic gospel stories about Jesus’s life. Whether you’re ever going to believe in Jesus or not, we’re trying to draw out hopeful inspiration,” says Radzinski

While Razinski plays a role in the management of the club, the group is primarily student-run. Leaders include OPRF students Tia Ford, Kelby Gray, Demetrius Dortch, and Eva-Sloan N’Cho-Allepot, who are driven by trying to make the group as inclusive as possible.

We want our community to become a family. We want everyone to be able to talk to anyone without any problems,” says Dortch.

Outside of trying to make religious minorities feel welcomed, OPRF Young Life has the goal of making the club welcoming to all races. “The vision was for us to grow our weekly club to over 100 kids every week, but we want that (population) to match the demographic of the community,” says Radzinski.  

Radzinski said the club was majority white about five years ago but has shifted to being primarily black over the last couple of years due to the increase in black student leaders. These leaders have now made it a goal of OPRF Young Life to encourage white people to come. “That was one of my main goals, to make it a little more diverse, so white people always feel comfortable coming into Young Life,” says Ford. Radzinski says that he has seen the club become more diverse this year. 

“They’re creating space as minority students that’s loving and serving kids of all colors. It’s just awesome to see,” says Radzinski.

Race is one of the “invisible barriers” that OPRF Young Life hopes to overcome through its events. “The goal of Young Life is that every single kid that comes can feel like they can be friends with anybody that’s there. We hope that that bleeds into the school so that all kids can just walk up and be friends with anybody,” says Radzinski. 

This fall, one of OPRF Young Life’s most notable events was their trip to Geneva on Nov. 14. Members from the OPRF group met up with other Young Life groups in the midwest. “We all just played different games together and just connected with the other schools,” says Ford. 

While many OPRF students go to Young Life for this community building, many students still find the club to be helpful to their religion. “I joined Young Life to have fun and build better bonds with people I wasn’t close to. I also joined to get closer to God because I was never really close with Him growing up,” says OPRF student Anthony Brown. 

After Thanksgiving, OPRF Young Life will have their club events Thursdays up until Dec. 9 and will start again in mid-January. “If you come, you will want to keep coming,” says Ford.