Both Cave Spring and Hidden Valley High School students have the opportunity to participate in Young Life, an international, non-profit, non-denominational christian group. Young Life has been in the words for 70 years in every state in the nation and 50 different countries.
Young Life area director, Andy Fetzer said,”the uniqueness with young life is contact work, we go to where the students are. It is an outreach ministry and we have an interesting group. We are folks that love Christ but we do it in a very non-threatening atmosphere.”
Fetzer says that Young Life is not big into numbers but in Roanoke County between the high schools and the middle schools they have 200 students at least, which includes about 100 from Hidden Valley and 75 from Cave Spring.
Young Life is made possible by a group of adults in the community who volunteer to spend time with students to develop relationship with them. Young Life has eight volunteers in Roanoke and two staff members, 250 donors and eight churches that sponsors Young Life.
Carey Schneckenburger, a volunteer was also involved in Young Life growing up and has been leading at Hidden Valley for the past eight years.
“Young Life made me who I am today,” Schneckburger said. “It’s the people who made me who I am. I wanted to give back and I fell in love with it in high school. It’s a privilege for me to hang out with these students. I feel like I get more out of it than I can offer them.”
Young Life is not sponsored by the school, but Fetzer said they have a relationship with the school system.
“We really want to serve the schools. Many of our volunteers are coaches and teachers,” Fetzer said. “We are acting as a bunch of adults that are joining the schools and what they want. We have relationships with the good kids and the kids people say aren’t good kids.”
Those who participate in Young Life often meet on Monday’s at one of the participants homes. They also have other events throughout the year.
“It’s a heart to heart, life to life type thing,” Fetzer said. “We’ll meet kids and hang out, we’ll play wiffle ball, eat at Katie’s Ice Cream. Most of the time there is no agenda- we just hang out. We sing songs, there’s skits, a 15 minute talk where we share a story in the bible.”
Every year, Young Life holds a Fall Weekend and sends about 150 kids to Rockbridge.
“It’s build on our philosophy,” Fetzer said about the weekend in Rockbridge. “If these kids knew how much they are worth in the eyes of God. We spend tongs of time figuring out how we can reach these kids and teach them who Christ is, so that they’d want to know Him more.”
Another event that is held annually is the Dodge ball Tournament in January where 500 kids get together and play dodge ball. And during the summer, Young Life participants have the opportunity to attend one of the 23 summer camps that Young Life has in the country.
They also participate in service projects like, Adopt-a-Highway or the Rescue Mission and once a month all area Young Lifers meet at churches like St. John Lutheran Church or Church of the Holy Spirit.
Young Life is also made possible by the students, who Fetzer called “campaigners” who reach out to others in the school who have a vision for their school, like Abby Broughton, who has been involved with Young Life since she was in middle school.
“I found out about Young Life through a friends. We had one Wildlife meeting and we thought it was cool. Carey has had a big impact on my life. Anything I feel like I can’t talk to my parents about and I need an adult to talk to, I can go to them (Young Life). It’s a good place to hang out and not feel pressure,” Abby said. “It’s more than just learning. It helps me to be a better person. It’s helped me to be closer to people I wouldn’t have known.”
Adam Hager, a young lifer and senior at Cave Spring High School became familiar with Young Life after his friends finally convinced him to go to one of the meetings.
“I went to my first young life club two years ago, during my sophomore year. I was asked to go by all my friends and my sophomore year, a teammate of mine on the basketball team decided he was going to drag me to one of the meeting. I go and end up having the best night of my life,” he said.
Hager said that during that particular night, for about 20 minutes they just hung out and met new people. They then had mixers and games and watch a skit put on by the leaders and then listen to a 15-minute message.
“It’s no different than just hanging out at a football game,” Hager said. “The funny thing about it, is it’s an entirely different environment than anything and the leaders get up and talk about God in a relational way and everything is based on love. What I get most out of it is fulfillment and satisfaction.”
Hager said that he plans to attend Mary Washington next fall and hopes to reach out to kids the way that his leaders reached out to him. There currently is not a Young Life program there, Hager said.
“The leaders, they commit so much of their time and their life just loving high school kids where they are at. Our leaders give us this great picture of who God is by they way they live their lives. They spend so much of their time just hanging out with kids and just loving them,” Hager said.
Young Life also has Capermaum with an emphasis on disabled kids, Young Lives, for teen moms and girls in a crisis and a middle school ministry.
Young Life has been available at Cave Spring for 20 plus years and at Hidden Valley since they opened.