Building relationships with college-aged mentors can change lives for teenagers, whether time is spent playing foosball or having a serious talk about life, according to Dawn Routledge, co-founder and director of operations at Crossroads Farm.
Crossroads Farm, a ministry organization dedicated to serving rural teens in Hillsdale County, officially became a GOAL program this semester, after a community member approached Rebekah Dell, associate dean of women and the GOAL Program’s faculty adviser, about grouping it with the other volunteer organizations on campus.
Crossroads Farms serves middle-school and high-school students, providing a safe, Christ-centered atmosphere for ministry and relationship-building. Approximately 150 students attend the program each week.
“It’s kind of like youth group, but you don’t have to go to church to come,” said sophomore Emily Walker, the Crossroads Farm GOAL Leader.
Sunday night gatherings include fun activities and games, as well as music and a Christian-themed talk. Crossroads Farm also added a tutoring session on Thursday nights so students could have a safe after-school spot. GOAL volunteers will have the opportunity to help with both the tutoring sessions and the Sunday night programs. Walker said these tutoring sessions help build bridges for Crossroads students beyond just their homework.
“They’re trying to provide help not only with their school work but just to give them a safe environment to go to after school,” Walker said. “It’s not universally the case that the homes aren’t a good environment, but for some, their home really isn’t ideal. To provide that extra time would be really neat.”
Although Crossroads Farm only became a GOAL program this semester, Hillsdale College students have long volunteered there since the program’s founding in 1999. Last year, 10 students regularly volunteered at the farm, although this year, the number dropped to three students.
Walker said in addition to the weekly gatherings, the program will also offer one-time volunteer opportunities.
Routledge said Crossroads helps teens make good decisions by providing them an opportunity to encounter Christ and build relationships with Crossroads mentors.
“We really feel like when we’re engaging a student, every choice they make puts them at a crossroads,” Routledge said. “One choice affects a great deal of things, and we’re hoping they’ll understand that it’s a choice — it’s a choice for Jesus Christ, but it’s also a choice about whether you’re going to do your homework, or try hard at practice, or get along with your parents, even if they aren’t necessarily worthy of modeling.”
Crossroads specifically ministers to rural teens, who Routledge said may struggle to find a meaningful heritage.
“One of the things that’s lost in rural communities is the rich heritage they have, because generationally, very few have a family farm,” Routledge said. “To understand that where they come from has history and value is really important.”
Senior Allison Bieganek, who has volunteered at Crossroads since her freshman year, said Crossroads provides teens with a safe and accepting community. Crossroads volunteers, she said, get the opportunity to build relationships with the teens and their fellow volunteers.
“That’s one of the things I love, apart from the ministry aspect,” Bieganek said. “They work to create a sense of community among volunteers and staff. They’re like family.”