Who are those people handing out chips at school every Wednesday morning?

Marley Gardner, Staff Writer

Whether it’s for free chips, donuts, or spiritual guidance, almost every U. City student has had some sort of interaction with Young Life, but few are really educated on the group’s mission. Founded as an Evangelical Christian organization, Young Life focuses on guiding teens through their relationship with Jesus Christ as a bridge between man and God. 

Meetings generally take place at Centennial Commons and feature pizza, candy and music, much resembling a party. Leaders and volunteers treat members as their peers, prizes are given out for games and challenges and teens are given the opportunity to socialize amongst each other.

“Young Life is just a fun place to be,” said Leslie Rico-Garcia, sophomore. “I’ve been going [to meetings and events] for about a year and I love it.”

It’s not until later in the meetings that any aspect of religion is  pulled in. Leaders and volunteers ask visitors to evaluate their relationship with God through Jesus, and what it means to them. They speak openly on their own experience and the organization preaches spiritual guidance through acceptance regardless of beliefs.

“[Young Life] is a Christian group, but I’m actually Catholic,” Rico-Garcia. “They’ve never made me feel unaccepted. Young Life is for everyone.”

However, some students do not feel the same sense of approval from the organization.

“I’ve gone and gotten snacks [from Young Life], but they make me really uncomfortable,” said Mariah Collins, sophomore, and member of the LGBTQ+ community. “[Young Life] tries to front as loving everyone, but they hide the fact that they’re homophobic.”

Although existing since the 1940s, with the rise in the acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community, Young Life has recently been in the news for their issues with homophobia. The policy is neatly inserted hidden deep within documents, disguising itself as a policy against “sexual misconduct,” a reasonable sounding request. However, the organization’s direct policy is, “We must, however, clearly state that individuals who are sexually active outside of a heterosexual marriage relationship should not serve as staff or volunteers in the mission and work of Young Life” (Letters from the A-Team: A Leader’s Guide to Camp). 

Although different students feel different levels of acceptance by Young Life, there’s a general consensus of desiring a feeling of safety in schools.

“I feel like if the school is going to have an outside organization as part of the school environment, they should have picked a more inclusive one,” said Collins.