Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Junior High: The Often Neglected Age Group

During the last  year, our community has suffered through several heartbreaking tragedies involving junior high students. 

One little girl committed suicide early last year. 

In March, a boy brought a gun to the middle school and shot a classmate .  I will never forget that terrifying moment when my oldest son called from the chaos just seconds after the shots were fired. 

Then, around the start of this school year, another young girl committed suicide. 

***

Across the country, this age group faces increasingly difficult situations both at school and at home.  Yet, many students are left to navigate the hurtles without the guidance of a caring adult.  Feeling alone, some make desperate choices with tragic results.

As a parent and as teacher, I know you can’t always tell which kids are hurting.  They become masters at hiding their feelings.  So in our community, parents, teachers and youth workers have been searching for ways to make connections with as many students as possible. 

A week and a half ago, our church coordinated a community event we called IConnect.  We held it at the local YMCA and prayed God would help as many students as possible to connect with caring adults.  Adults who could make a difference in their lives. 

As we planned for the event, God moved in the hearts of local business owners to provide much of what we needed.  Through generous donations, we were able to provide a meal for all, Christ-centered entertainment, and lots of fun and door prizes!IConnect 10

Skateboarding is popular among kids in town.  So, we invited a group of Christian teens from Chicago to kick off the event with a demonstration. They were extraordinary!  Just so you know, this jump was successful!  Lol! 

IConnect 1

After the demo, a few of these teens shared their testimonies with the crowd.

IConnect 2

A whole bunch of young people heard that Jesus loves them for the very first time.

After the demo, leaders mingled with and guided kids through a variety of activities and stations. 

Here is a picture I took of some leaders right before the event started.  That’s my oldest son about to catch the football.  He’s an eighth grader this year.

IConnect 4

That sixty-foot inflatable obstacle coarse they are standing around?  That was provided in part by the huge heart and generosity of my friend who rents them out.  The kids LOVED it!

Another highlight was our goobligoop station.  Goobligoop is what we call a water and cornstarch mixture which takes on properties no one can resist checking out!  IConnect 6Mix it in about equal parts to make a thick syrup-y consistency.  Then try punching it.  Your fist can’t penetrate it.  But take a scoop with your hand and try to hold it and it runs through your fingers!  IConnect 5 Keep a handful moving, and you can toss it to a friend.  Take too long to throw it, and it will drip onto your feet!  They had a blast with this!

After an evening packed with games and fun, we finished the night with a 40 foot long ice cream sundae trough!

IConnect 7

By every account, the event was a success!  No one was hurt.  All had a great time.  And the connections that were formed that evening are beginning to bear fruit!  Praise God! 

Reach out to the junior high kids you know.  Listen, laugh and play a game with them.  Your involvement could save a life!

2 comments:

Mari said...

Bob and I were leaders of our Junior High youth group at church for about 7 years. We had lots of good times! You're right about it being a hard age. Sounds like you had some great things for them.

great-mom-lousy-farmer said...

Such wonderful ideas you all came up with. My two oldest are in junior high, and our youth minister at church is forever looking for new ideas. I have been making the goobligoop for years for my kids to play with in the kitchen, but it never crossed my mind to make tubs of it to throw around. I will certainly pass these ideas on!
Thank you for your post and your work. This age is most certainly in need of adult interaction. So many people are afraid to work with kids this age, thinking they are all surly or difficult. It is so comforting to see people reaching out and helping these youth.