West Chicago, Illinois
You'd probably think there's always something to do in a place like West Chicago. But don't be fooled by the name. It's not the sprawling metropolis you're imagining. West Chicago is a suburban town about 40 miles—you guessed it—west of Chicago. While it may not be around the corner from Wrigley Field or Michigan Avenue shopping, teens who live in West Chicago say they find plenty of ways to entertain themselves. Campus Life club meetings are one way, but they're more than just entertainment.
"We're all about hangin' out with each other and building relationships," says student leader Allison Brown. "That's really what Campus Life club is about, too." Each Monday night, students meet at one of the student leaders' houses. They spend the first part just catching up with each other and getting to know new faces. The conversation gets a bit deeper when they break up into small groups and talk about the topic of the night, which could be anything from love to loneliness. "We have really interesting discussions," Allison says. "We talk about issues and problems we face every day. It's great because you can be totally open and honest and no one's going to jump down your throat for it."
That's what attracted senior Dayna Catenacca to the group. "At school everyone's so judgmental, and there are tons of little cliques. But at Campus Life it's just one group, and everyone can express how they feel."
Students in Campus Life hope that same openness and willingness to accept others will draw in their non-Christian friends. Their aim is to make their meetings a middle ground between hangin' out and going to youth group.
Student leader Tracy Erickson says, "I think we make it a comfortable experience for them. We introduce them to a God-like atmosphere, but we don't force our message."
Kristin: Ryan has taught me a lot. He's helped me determine what I think about God. And since he's really involved with Campus Life, he's encouraged me to come. It's a fun place to go, and the discussions are really good. I've learned a lot about myself and about how I want to live my life, and that makes me feel really good, more secure.
Ryan H.: God's been teaching me how amazing his love is. He's shown me love in blessing me with good friends and family. I try to show that love by being friends with a bunch of different people and not sticking to one clique.
Landon H.: I'm really close to Sarah K. We just feel comfortable around each other and are able to tell each other anything. Like a few months ago, I was really having trouble with my faith in God, and she was able to help me through that. She helped me realize the problem was with me, not God.
Allison: I am very passionate about politics. I'd like to be a congressman or senator, maybe even president of the United States. I hope God will use me in some way. I think I have the ability to make laws and help people.
Sarah K: I'm on newspaper staff. I like it because I get a chance to express my views. Sometimes I get to write articles about my faith, which is great because it opens the door for conversations about God.