While many do not consider the Christian faith the primary decision-making tool of modern teenage girls, the Visions of Virtue mentorship program is trying to change that.
The program pairs 10 Yale student mentors, or “visionaries,” with New Haven-area teen girls, or “virtues,” selected from a group of applicants between the ages of 13 and 15, to promote the application of Christian values in daily life.
Visions of Virtue held its annual introductory session Sunday in anticipation of the 12-week series of workshops it will hold this winter.
The vision of the program, coordinator Nicole Falconer ’05 said, is to allow Christian Yale students the opportunity to advise and teach local teenagers through their faith.
“This year, as in every year the program runs successfully, there are four simple goals,” Falconer said. “To pair college-aged women with little sisters in Christ, to plant seeds of Godliness, to promote Christian growth and to prepare virtuous women to serve the Lord. This is our vision.”
Though these aims are not mutually exclusive, neither are they mutual necessities.
“If we have done any one,” Falconer said, “we have accomplished our goal.”
The workshops, which will begin in January, will attempt to address contemporary issues facing teenage girls from a Christian perspective.
“Last year, we dealt with topics like partying and peer pressure, dealing with parents and things like that,” returning visionary Jessica Johnson ’04 said.
In the meantime, visionaries are expected to keep in contact with their respective virtues and encourage them to communicate more, generally via weekly phone conversations.
“[My virtue and I] talked about school, life, how things were going for her, and about how to deal with things and articulate them better,” returning visionary Kimberly Brown ’04 said. “She had ideas about what was right and wrong, but not necessarily why.”
Johnson said that while the other visionaries had all connected on some level or another with their virtues, she felt that the girl she worked with was special — particularly bright, energetic and willing to participate and open up to her, learning to look at the issues in her life from a biblical perspective. The mentees are referred to as “virtues” because each one selects a virtue to concentrate on developing and maintaining, Johnson added; hers selected “understanding.”
Johnson said that the experience benefited the visionaries as well as the girls they mentored.
“It’s a wonderful process that both we and the girls go through,” she said. “I guess, basically, we’re not just another parent figure, just someone who’s older. Kids that age don’t really look up to their parents, anyway — we provide them with a role model, someone a little older who’s walking Christian lines.”
Brown said she envisioned the program having effects on a larger scale than simply the visionary-virtue relationship. She said she hoped the girls would apply the lessons they learned to their individual roles in their communities.
The Sunday Ladies’ Luncheon, the introductory session, served both as an open forum for questions about the program and as an opportunity for already-committed visionaries to get to know one another, Falconer said.
While November is the waiting period for applications, which are due Dec. 3, Falconer said the program heads will use the intervening weeks to choose new visionaries, prepare for the opening ceremony and outline the workshop sessions for January. The program culminates with an annual “Coming-Out for Christ” ceremony, at which a banquet is held to “celebrate each girl’s success, talents, spiritual growth and potential,” Falconer said.
Falconer credited Renee Reynolds ’03, who served as co-founder, designer and director of the program, for much of its success.
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