As a college student, I never thought I would step foot into a high school. Little did I know, I’d be spending 15 hours a week in South Austin with high schoolers.
My journey to the hallways of Akins High School began my freshman year at UT when I decided to join an organization called Younglife. This national youth ministry is made up of college students devoted to building relationships with kids from all backgrounds and directors who work tirelessly with students to match them with a high school in their area.
Navigating high school is difficult and confusing, as kids are determining who they want to be, the people they want to surround themselves with, and where they want to go after graduation. I have the greatest privilege of coming alongside my girls during this crucial time, listening to their roses and thorns, offering advice, and reminding them they are worthy of love.
Monday afternoons as a leader are made up of I-35 traffic and car contemplation, after-school pickups and aux arguments, Chick-fil-a nuggets and parking lot jams, church setups and pre-club prayers, sing alongs and heated competition, and words of truth followed by reluctant 11 p.m. see-you-laters. Wednesday nights can’t come quick enough, with late night snacks, tight hugs, kid stories, and much-needed encouragement. Friday mornings come early, but the “I love you’s” are more than worth it.
Being a Younglife leaders isn’t always fun, or easy, or convenient. I make real sacrifices, and to many, it seems a waste of time, but I have found incomparable joy in expereiencing life with my girls.
Aranxta teaches me to love recklessly. Alize shows me the power of forgiveness. Meaghan reminds me to laugh without fear. J Lo shows me how to live selflessly. RaeAnn is confident and honest. Mackenzie gives the best hugs in the world.
I didn’t want to be an Akins leader when I got placed. I didn’t feel like I related to anyone on my team or the kids I was supposed to lead. I expected these relationships to come easily. Driving 45 minutes in heavy traffic is a weekly commitment and peeling myself out of my bed before the crack of dawn to pick up my girls before school is a battle.
As months turned into years, I slowly learned to find joy in inconveniences and fought hard for relationships with my kids and my team, and now Akins Younglife is my favorite college experience.
During our final club last semester, one of the girls I grew closest to shared that her favorite memory of Younglife was rides home with me. My heart leapt in my chest. I remember thinking that this is what life is all about: loving people where they are, as they are, without a single string attached.