Adopt-a-Student program provides Evangel students with a home away from home
July 10, 2013 | Ian Richardson
Nothing compares with a home-cooked meal served around the dinner table. But for most college students who have moved away from home, experiences like this are few and far between – even nonexistent for some.
That is why Evangel University has the Adopt-a-Student Program.
Re-launched last year and headed by Community Life Assistant Melinda Jamison, the Adopt-a-Student program partners with local churches to connect students to an “adopted” family which helps to provide some of the comforts — and tastes — of home.
Adopted families engage students in a wide variety of ways, such as inviting them to come eat and relax for an evening, allowing them to store belongings with them over the summer, and providing them with prayer and support during times of need.
“Evangel University cares about its students, even beyond the classroom,” Jamison says. “We want our students to experience a home away from home. We want them to be challenged and encouraged by Christian families who care about today’s students, especially those at EU.”
Here’s how the program works: After students sign up in the fall, Evangel employees advertise the program in their churches. Families who are interested in being hosts then contact Evangel’s Community Life office or register online. After completing the application and approval process, the families connect with their adopted Evangel students and get together throughout the school year.
Edythe Stewart was one of the volunteers last year. After she and her husband responded to the call in their church, they became adopted grandparents for three female Evangel students. Stewart says that adopting the girls helped fill an empty spot since her grandchildren live out of state.
After getting to know the girls’ likes and dislikes, Stewart invited them to her house about once a month. Their activities ranged from a Sunday dinner complete with china dishes to a night of board games. The girls helped her hang Christmas decorations, bake cookies and make candy, and Stewart remembered them with gifts on special occasions. Stewart also made sure to pray for them if they had any special needs, letting them know she was always available to contact.
“I hope it gave them something to look forward to,” she says. “Especially on holidays. And I wanted them to feel they could call me if they needed something.”
Sophomore Anna Pageler was one of the Stewarts’ adopted grandchildren, and she says the Stewarts were a blessing to have available throughout the school year.
“I was able to talk to them like they were my grandparents, and they truly became my home away from home,” she says. “I look forward to spending time with them next school year as well as staying in contact with them for the years to come.”
Dan and Sherry Clopine have been hosting students in their home since 1988 and have found the relationships with college students to be a mutually rewarding experience.
In addition to monthly Sunday lunches, they host parties for students throughout the year. “We have a welcome-back party at the beginning of the fall semester, a Christmas party, an Easter egg hunt and Luau/graduation party at the end of each year,” Sherry says.
While they usually “adopt” about 10 students a year, the Clopines encourage everyone to bring friends — often their gatherings include 30 or 40 Evangel students.
“Dan and I enjoy the lifetime friendships with the students and their parents,” Sherry says. “We have students from the east, west, north and south. Dan and I enjoy when students come back with spouses and children and come over for dinner. We treasure the memories of each student that steps into our life. These students become part of our family.”
In order to ensure the Adopt-a-Student program meets the needs of the students, Jamison says the current program has been designed based on feedback from Evangel students. She and a committee of other faculty and staff members went to a group of students to learn what the program should and should not look like.
“We created a small focus group of students who let us know what they wanted and what they did not care for,” Jamison says. “The committee then created the program out of the needs and desires of our students.”
Sophomore Andre Thomas says he signed up last year because he wanted to meet new people and have a nice home-cooked meal every once and a while. He says he and his adopted family would get together once a month and eat, play board games and just enjoy spending time together.
“I enjoyed how cool the family was,” he says. “They weren’t really weird about having college kids in their house. They just accepted us like they had really adopted us.”
Along with visiting her adopted family once a month, sophomore Rachel Costadini spent Thanksgiving with them since she was unable to go home. Costadini says the best part about her family was how loving and accepting they were, especially her “siblings.”
“My family had four kids, and I loved that by the second time we came over, we were instantly a part of the family,” she says. “I felt like the kids were my little brothers and sisters, and we even went to their basketball games to cheer them on.”
Approximately 100 students participated in Evangel’s Adopt-a-Student program last year, and Jamison looks for the program to expand in the future.
“Several students have reported enjoying time off of campus in a welcoming home environment,” she says. “We are hoping for growth throughout the years.”
Local families who wish to sign up for the Adopt-a-Student program can fill out an application online. Students will receive more information about signing up after the beginning of the fall semester. Contact the Community Life office for more information.