As a freshman, junior Erin Cosgrove and her sister, Amy, got up in front of their Young Life audience, dressed up as Scottish twins. Over the next few weeks of their Young Life meetings, they performed a series of skits for their fellow members.
These skits are a tradition for Young Life. At each meeting on Wednesday nights, hosted by different members, there are skits put on by members for entertainment. There is a raffle at the beginning, in which items from pictures to T-shirts to gift cards are awarded to the winners.
Everyone sings along to the most popular Taylor Swift or Justin Bieber songs. Then, leader Dave Franco plays worship songs on his guitar, and the kids sing along, following along with the lyrics projected on the wall. At the end, a speaker, generally just a religious person, gives a speech to tell about how a story from the Bible relates to their lives. The group is led by Dave and Wendy Franco.
Through Young Life, Cosgrove has gotten to know other East students. She has become friends with freshman Laurell Stegelman, who started attending when her cheer coach, Kelsey Bradley, told the team about Young Life.
“[Bradley] said that some of the older varsity girls go, and that it’s really fun and we should come,” Stegelman said. “I like it because we have a lot of fun, but we learn at the same time.”
Sophomore Becca Zeiger first went to K-Life as an eighth grader, convinced by her older brother that she would have fun. Walking through the door for the first time, she didn’t know what to expect. But she felt welcomed by the happy, friendly leaders and other kids there. She could tell the leaders really wanted her to be there. So she started coming regularly as a freshman. Now, Zeiger is involved in the program as a member and a small group leader.
K-Life was started by a group of moms from Kanakuk Kamps, Christian summer camps for kids of all ages. They wanted their kids to have a better opportunity to develop their faith. Today, there are different K-Life groups around the country. Their meetings help teens and kids strengthen their Christian faith and grow closer to each other through games, worship and prayer. Kathryn Hanson, who became a leader of Kansas City K-Life after being a leader at Kanakuk Kamp, plans the lessons for each meeting of K-Life here.
“We take directly from the word of God (the Bible) and teach how we can apply that to our lives,” Hanson said.
The club meetings, which are every Monday night, include three activities: hanging out with friends, playing games and worshiping through prayer and lessons from the Bible. Club is for kids of all ages, and everyone is divided into optional small groups for additional, more personal worship. The K-Life house is filled with a foosball table, a Wii, TVs and a pinball machine, all of which kids use when they hang out before K-Life starts. Some girls dance to “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” on Just Dance for the Wii before worship. While others talk and play foosball.
After that, everyone goes downstairs for games, then worships through prayer and a lesson from a Bible passage. This year, each passage is from the book of the Galatians. The members sit on multi-colored bean bags and hammocks hanging from the wall posts and listen. Afterwards, they sing worship songs together. This is sophomore Alex Luger’s favorite part of K-Life.
“There’s a lot of people, but it’s my time to grow closer to the Lord,” Luger said.
The social connections and spiritual strength Zeiger draws from K-Life have impacted her life both spiritually and socially.
“I’ve grown closer to so many people that I probably wouldn’t have interacted with otherwise,” Zeiger said. “We’re united on the spiritual foundation, and that’s what makes our relationships so much stronger than mine with some of my other friends.”
Junior Shaina Stasi throws herself into the air, bouncing off a trampoline. She and her friends “show off [their] fancy stunts” and joke around about how out of shape they are. She is at Sky Zone, an indoor trampoline park as part of a special side event for NCSY.
NCSY is an international orthodox youth program for Jewish kids and teens that stresses the values of the Jewish religion. It was founded by the Orthodox Union in 1954 to give teens an opportunity to connect to their Jewish roots. In the Kansas City area, it is run through the Jewish community of Kansas and directed by Hillel Goldstein. Goldstein is in charge of the program for Kansas City.
“I teach Jewish kids about their Jewish culture and what it means to be Jewish,” Goldstein said.
Goldstein also runs the Shabbat meals that NCSY hosts some Friday evenings. Shabbat is practiced as a celebration of God’s day of rest, which is based off of the Jewish belief that God created the world in six days, then rested on the seventh. The Kansas City branch of NCSY goes to either a synagogue or Goldstein’s house to eat and worship. This is the main event of NCSY.
“We eat tons of food like chicken, noodles, veggies, potatoes and dessert,” Stasi, said. “Then, some people light candles, say prayers, sing songs and have family and friends time.”
Senior Matt Kunin also participates in NCSY. Through the program, he can socialize with other Jewish teens.
“[NCSY] is a great way to meet other students with a common background, and you get to have fun, too,” Kunin said.
NCSY hosts these Shabbat meals and has special events, like the visit to Sky Zone. Both contribute to the social and spiritual benefits Stasi gets from NCSY.
“[Through NCSY], I’ve learned so much about my heritage and the rules of my religion, and I’ve made so many close friends,” Stasi said. “I enjoy going to everything I do with them.”