This year we did an experiment. For the first time ever, Power to Change – Students offered an award for 17 students attending post-secondary schools in Ontario. Moving on from high school can be a challenging transition and we wanted to help by making funds available––and especially help them create connections to local faith communities.
When the Renegotiating Faith study was published in 2018, one thing that stood out was the need to help university/college students make connections with faith communities. If connections were made, students were 3x more likely to get involved in a church and 4x more likely to get involved in a campus Christian group. Those first four weeks of September are especially vital; 75% of young adults get connected to a campus group or church within the first month of starting at a new school or new location.
Through the generous partnership of a donor, we were able to pilot this idea of offering awards to students who are about to start college or university to help practically and to get them thinking about what faith could look like as they head into this next season.
To the 118 students who completed an application, and the 69 who started one, thank you for taking the time to share your story with us, or at least consider what following Jesus might look like as you start post-secondary.
Below, you’ll read an interview with the winner of our largest NEXT Steps Awards, Maya, who will be starting at St. Clair College in the fall.
Where are you going to school in the fall? What are you studying?
I will be getting a Honours Bachelor of Applied Arts in Social Justice & Legal Studies. It’s a four year program at St. Clair College in Windsor, Ontario. I have actually never been to Ontario before, not even Toronto. I’m from British Columbia and because of the pandemic I didn’t travel to visit any of my schools of choice, so it will be a bit of an adventure.
Why did you pick your school of choice?
My original plan, since I was eleven, was to participate in YWAM (Youth With A Mission). But as I started online school in the summer of 2020, my guidance counselor encouraged me to be open to the possibility of attending post-secondary.
That September, I chatted with my mom and we decided to start praying and fasting for my future. Every Friday, instead of eating lunch, we would spend time praying and listening to God. In those times, Windsor kept coming up. As the year went on, I became more and more involved in youth advocacy, along with becoming more educated about social injustices. I realized that if I actually want to support the most marginalized, I have to go and work alongside them. I also realized I would need a degree. When I read St. Clair’s description, my family said, “This looks like they wrote the program for you.”
YWAM could be an option in the future, but I’m excited for the direction God is leading me in this season. Sometimes what God’s telling you and the version you tell yourself is actually different.
How did you hear about the Power to Change – Students NEXT Steps Awards? What made you decide to apply?
At the beginning of the year, my parents sat me down and basically said that because of some crises there wasn’t any money available for college or university. They encouraged me to seek God for my needs. Every Tuesday and Thursday I would spend my lunchtime fasting, praying, and thanking God for providing for my schooling.
I created a list of every scholarship or award I was eligible for and organized them in order of application deadline. What’s funny is that P2C was never on that list, but I was on your website looking to talk to someone about housing and I saw that there was an award I could apply for.
How do you think an award and even the application process itself can serve future post-secondary-bound students?
I think the application questions create an invitation for some soul searching. Questions like ‘What next steps are you planning on taking to connect or stay connected to a faith community as you enter post secondary education?’ and ‘As you look towards the future, how do you want to integrate the Christian faith and your anticipated field of study?’ could help start the process for young people thinking about where God is calling them. It also could stop students from putting God into categorized boxes, and instead think about how they can become so connected to God that their life and his heart for them and others flow seamlessly together.
What are you looking forward to the most about starting university? What worries or makes you feel apprehensive?
I am most looking forward to building a community around me. I don’t need a lot of friends, I just need a few good friends, with similar values. I want meaningful relationships, where iron sharpens iron.
As far as being worried, I am more just in a position where I am not in control of everything so I can either worry or trust God will provide for me. The latter perspective will probably support my blood pressure in the long run! I’m not scared to move out on my own or to a new province, but I don’t know what life will be like without my family around. It’s things like getting lost or figuring out how I’m going to get my groceries home on the bus without them freezing in the winter that makes me a bit nervous. Basically adapting to a new way of life is exciting but unknown.
What next steps towards Jesus do you hope to take? How do you hope to help others take their next steps towards Jesus?
As I head off to college this fall I hope to be my truest self, meshed with Jesus. There can be a lot of pain when the word Christian is used. I hope to break off some stigmas, and transform how people view Jesus. I hope my life—meaning the way I show up in the world—reflects Jesus in his truest, most wild self.
I think it’s important to ask ourselves why we want people to know Jesus. The answer for me is that I have Someone in my life who promises things will always get better. Who can be close when no one else can. Who understands things about me that I don’t. Who speaks my love language fluently. Someone who always wants the best for me. I have a Friend who can heal anything. Who has no other agenda other than love and connection. So why wouldn’t I want those around me to have such a stable, emotionally intelligent and incredible companion that can love them better than I ever could?
Lastly, I believe God is a God of justice, and this is where I feel him leading me. A way of loving people is creating systems that are kind and speaking up for people who can’t. So all this is my next step toward love.
As you look towards the future, how do you want to integrate the Christian faith and your anticipated field of study?
My philosophy is that I can either struggle through school on my own or invite Jesus—the inventor and master of everything—to be my study buddy. We come up with some pretty good answers together so I plan to involve him in every project and paper.
Bonus question: When you’re not studying, how do you like to fill your time?
I’m artistic, but I like art that’s functional like pottery or making gifts. I like to listen to different podcasts—some help me process and heal, and others that are just random banter. I love to swim and go to the beach, or hang out with my sisters. I also like playing the guitar, graphic design, reading, and thrift shopping.
We are so excited for students like Maya as they prepare to start university or college in the fall and can’t wait to hear the stories of how God’s at work!
Starting university or college in the fall?
Take a minute now to check what churches and Christian clubs are available at your campus. Head here to see if P2C-Students is there and to get connected!
We’re praying for you as you make this transition!
Know someone who is about to start university or college this fall?
Why not ask them how they’re doing and feeling as they prepare for this big life change. Ask them if they’ve thought about where they will go to church or if there are any Christian groups at their school. Here are more suggestions and practical ideas.
To stay in the loop with our NEXT initiative, you can sign up for their emails. Whether you’re in high school or supporting those who are, we have content for you. Sign up here.