SWU hosts innovative program focused on community, growth and service
Imagine you are a 17-year-old high school senior.
It seems your parents bug you daily about making plans for next year. You want to follow God’s leadership, but you might not want to go straight into college. You’re hesitant to go “off path” after high school.
At the same time Parents want the best for their son or daughter as they make potentially life-changing decisions.
Situations like these led Peter Sullivan to establish OneLife Institute, a gap year program in 2012. Sullivan wanted to see the program extend into the Southeast, and – seeing that OneLife resonated with SWU’s emphasis on inventive learning – a partnership was formed.
OneLife students earn a year’s worth of SWU credit while traveling, acquiring life skills, growing in emotional intelligence, and deepening their walk with Christ. At the start of the fall semester, SWU offered its first OneLife class with 12 students and three staff members. Overseeing the SWU program is OneLife Site Director Dr. Matt Hunter, joined by Residence Leader Anna Tabor and Recruiting Coordinator Gavin Potter.
After graduating from SWU in 2015, Potter joined the OneLife staff at Lancaster Bible College.
“We’d like to see our students understand the gospel in a way that affects their lives holistically,” said Potter. “Vocation, education, recreation, family, emotions and relationships are all areas where God’s goodness can be seen and cultivated.” OneLife students learn inside and outside the classroom through a variety of teaching activities.
OneLife at SWU has begun partnering with local organizations such as the Dream Center, Habitat for Humanity and the Potter’s Place, and students serve these and other organizations while seeking to grow as a team and reflecting on what they’re learning as a community.
A big part of the OneLife experience is travel. OneLife started fall semester with a trip to refugee communities just outside of Atlanta.
“Our interactions ranged from intentional and structured to informal conversation at refugee owned or operated businesses,” Hunter said.
They also traveled to Denver and Salt Lake City. Upcoming trips will take them to Pittsburgh and overseas to Israel.
OneLife students are also without their phones six days a week, not promoting “anti-technology” but rather “pro-community” in spirit. Many students have found that the benefits of face-to-face interaction outweigh any loss of screen time.
“The secret sauce of OneLife is community,” Potter said. “The high level of accountability – not necessarily in the hard discipline sense, but in individual mentoring where students meet with a staff member every other week. We’re doing Bible studies every week that are deep and require vulnerable sharing, so students are knowing and being known in levels they haven’t previously experienced. In a healthy community, students are able to wrestle with issues proactively rather than reactively.”
Tabor commented that OneLife is “intense and intentional.”
“I joked with the students that they’re going to learn everything in a year that it took me four years of college to slowly understand,” she said.