Campus Ministry News: (Virtual) Graduation Edition!
Dear Friends of Campus Ministry,
Last night at our Vine summer bible study, we read the Pentecost story in Acts. The students talked about injustice, and all the pain and anger that is boiling over in our country right now. They told me about the way God uses the ones who have been dismissed and ignored to transform the world; about the ways we carry both grief and love in our bodies, like Jesus did; about how the Holy Spirit disrupts our carefully laid plans so God's new thing can emerge. My friends, in the midst of all that is broken, I find hope each and every day in these beautiful, gifted young disciples. Our students are following Jesus in an incredibly uncertain world and they do so with tremendous faith, vision, empathy, and holy energy. I give thanks to God for them and their witness.
Over the past few months, our graduating students have experienced a unique upheaval to their carefully laid plans. Uprooted in the middle of their final semester, they have seen the culmination of their years of study sputter to a mostly unsung conclusion. And so we are doing everything we can to rejoice with and bless our graduates, who have learned and grown so much, and been remarkably resilient and hopeful in these times. This newsletter is our invitation to you to celebrate and give thanks along with us for these students who have shaped our ministries and will shape our world.
We don't have room to feature all of our amazing grads in this newsletter but please read on to see a snapshot of a few of our inspiring new alums and to learn how they are using their gifts to serve God and their neighbors. I hope the stories and profiles below are a welcome dose of a joy and hope in a time when they are badly needed.
Yours in Christ,
The Rev. Becca Seely
Lutheran Ministries in Higher Education of NYC
P.S. This ministry is shaping the lives and faith of students who are going out to transform our hurting world, and none of it is possible without your support. Please keep our students in prayer and if you haven't yet given this year, please consider giving to support The Vine. Your gift will touch students today and help to nurture the future of Church. Thank you!
Spotlight on Graduating Students
Barnard College '20
Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry
Hometown: Clinton, CT
During her time at Barnard, Alaina was a LaMP student leader, active in a hip hop dance collective, and studied abroad in Kenya, where she found the the elephant bone she holds in the picture above. Next year, Alaina will begin a PhD program in Chemistry at Harvard University. She looks forward to continuing her research in the field of materials chemistry and to working on increasing access and diversity in the sciences in higher education.
New York University '20
Master of Music in Vocal Performance and Pedagogy
Hometown: Portland, OR
Jillana's passion for singing first blossomed in the basement of her church in the “cherubs choir” for preschool singers. Her love for musical theater, opera, and teaching brought her to NYU, where she has spent the past two years developing her voice and her vocal teaching skills. During her time at NYU, Jillana was an active participant in PRiSM and taught voice to undergraduates. Now that she has graduated, she is founding her own voice studio, including online lessons for the COVID era.
Columbia University '20
Bachelor of Arts in Religion
Hometown: New York, NY
During her time at Columbia, Aurora served as a LaMP student leader for two years, volunteered with the campus Stressbusters club, and remained active working with youth at her home congregation, St. Paul and St. Andrew United Methodist Church on the Upper West Side. Aurora's religion thesis focused on Womanist Theology, a fascinating topic she was able to teach about at both LaMP and PRiSM this year. A gifted creative writer who often explores Christian themes in her work, Aurora will pursue an MFA in Creative Writing at The New School starting this fall.
Columbia University '20
Masters in Urban Planning
Hometown: Redwood City, CA
Emilio came to Columbia straight from undergrad at U.C. Berkeley. His studies in Urban Planning concentrated on issues of community and economic development. Over the past year, Emilio has been active in LaMP, offering wise insight in weekly meetings, attending the Faith & Freedom Civil Rights Pilgrimage, and even celebrating his birthday on our Vine fall retreat (see the birthday cake his campus ministry friends baked for him above). Emilio is excited to return to his beloved California and pursue meaningful work in urban planning in the Bay Area.
Columbia University '20
Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Education Studies
Hometown: Berkeley, CA
In her time at Columbia, Clara was active in LaMP, served as a orientation leader for first year students, danced in multiple ensembles, tutored high school students, and co-founded the Columbia Repertory Ballet. Next year, Clara is excited to return to New York City as an FAO Schwarz Fellow. The Fellowship is an intensive, two-year experience in leadership development and social impact. As a fellow, Clara will be working with Reading Partners, an organization supporting childhood literacy.
Other Recent Highlights from Spring Semester Include:
In addition to weekly gatherings during the semester, The Vine network has found new opportunities to build connection and prevent student isolation, including Game Nights. In April, PRiSM campus minister Meghan Morris hosted 15 students from LaMP and PRiSM in a rousing, competitive, and hilarious game of Family Feud online. Regular Vine Game Nights have continued as part of our Summer Not-Going-Outings series.
College seniors active in LaMP Campus Ministry were invited to offer Senior Sermons again this year - this time, via Zoom. In these reflections on the texts of the Easter season, our graduates interpreted the gospel in light of their own experiences as students. Thank you to Clara Monk, Alaina Hartnett, and Aurora Celestin for your powerful proclamation of the Word.
The Vine's LaMP and PRiSM ministry branches hosted virtual End of the Year Parties for students in May. These included games, a live-streamed campfire with songs, and a chance for students to bless their graduating peers. The picture above captures our students lifting their hands in blessing as they offered up thanksgivings and prayers for a graduate in the community.
In the midst of these trying times, young adult alumni of The Vine's ministries have found comfort in regular online alumni gatherings. Organized by a team of recent alums, graduates from the classes of 2017, 2018, and 2019 have been checking in most weeks for conversation, peer-led bible study, prayer, and lots of laughter. Pastor Becca has even been able to drop into a few of the gatherings to say hi! The friendships these young adults made through campus ministry have continued to shape their life and faith after graduation.
In the weeks leading up to graduation, friends of The Vine community poured out love and blessings on our graduates missing out on traditional ceremonies and celebrations this year. The wisdom and prayers of over 30 supporters and alumni were collected to become a beautiful and powerful "Book of Blessings" that was mailed to each of our graduating students. Thank you to everyone who took the time to lift up our amazing class of 2020 in this way!
The Vine NYC is a network of big-hearted, open-minded campus ministries serving college and graduate students across New York City. The Vine connects students with peer faith communities, local congregations and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Vine is a ministry of Lutheran Ministries in Higher Education in partnership with local congregations.