BY CHRIS ROUTEN
From June until mid-August, waves of Cougs-to-be flooded WSU’s campus for their first taste of life on the Palouse. Each summer, the university opens its doors to new students for ALIVE! – a mandatory orientation session lasting three days. Since every future student is required to attend one of these sessions, the opportunity to serve and love the incoming freshman class was obvious. Resonate’s mission has always been to connect the Gospel to people, people to community, and community to mission. As a staff, we agreed that the best way to do this was to literally meet them where they were. I was one of four interns who made it their full-time job this summer to stay in Pullman and connect with students while they were here.
But what did we actually do? We worked alongside WSU’s ALIVE! program to provide entertainment, information, and friendship to students during their time on campus. We took hundreds of pictures on a jimmy-rigged photo booth, played dozens of games of sand volleyball under the lights at the SRC, and began relationships that will last far beyond the summer. We met people who will proudly call Pullman their home this year. Some were so excited for school to start while others were terribly nervous. Some were going Greek while others were eager to get involved in other ways. And we’ll vouch that the students we met this summer were, in all honestly, the coolest ever.
When I went through ALIVE! the summer before I first came to WSU, I was in a weird place emotionally. Even months before classes began, I felt the pressure to succeed as a first generation college student. The happiness of finally being at a university was mixed with the stress of high performance and anxiety of not knowing where I would fit in. The emotions I felt are not uncommon for incoming students. In fact, we spoke with many people this summer who already shared the same feelings. For most, coming to school at WSU is extremely taxing. Aside from the physical, intellectual, and financial requisites of college, the emotional burden that many students carry is debilitating. After spending two months interacting with these students week after week, it became clear that the heaviest weight comes from a desire for acceptance - something that simply being admitted to the university cannot fulfill.
In reality, working alongside the ALIVE! program this summer wasn’t about pictures, volleyball, or otter-pops. It was about breaking the news to students that they are accepted. They are accepted despite their shortcomings and faults, their fears and failures. The acceptance is completely free, despite being priceless in value. It’s not contingent on a clean record, high GPA, or extra-curricular involvement. It’s available to all, through Christ.
Our heart behind connecting with incoming students is simple. Jesus invites people to something much better than anything college has to offer. He offers abundant, fulfilling life. God came for us all: the frat boy and the athlete, the anxious and the uncertain, the freshman and the senior, just to give us the opportunity to experience true life. As the Church on a college campus, it’s our joy to share with students the Jesus who guarantees unconditional acceptance, even when social and academic acceptance is uncertain. Christ does not care to see your transcript. A relationship with Him is without pre-requisite. That’s comforting. And that makes for a far greater college experience.