by James Woodley, A/U – DB Foundation President
Valerie Lodge was full of campers and parents on the last day of the camp session. Shaking hands with parents and supporters I felt a touch on my shoulder. “Hi. I’m Carolyn. I heard you were looking for me?” As I turned around, I saw her bright eyes and cheerful smile. With an entourage supportively standing behind her it was immediately clear this high school junior was a leader.
Carolyn has been in the National Leadership Council for three years, and I was hoping to get the inside scoop on what she felt NLC was all about.
“How did you get involved with NLC?” I asked.
“I really wanted to connect with other Christian Scientists, because… I really love camp. I thought this would be camp at home. That was the major reason I pushed to be in NLC!”
“What are some of the things you do in NLC?” I quizzically inquired.
“This summer we went to Peru, which was a blast! It was a service project. The purpose was to build a classroom. Throughout the week we were building using mud and bricks, that sort of thing. I actually got to go and teach English and art at a nearby school, which was a lot of fun. That was probably one of my favorite parts of the trip.”
“Well, what has been your favorite part of the NLC experience?” I asked, expecting a trip like Peru to be at the top of the list.
“I don’t know if I have a favorite part, because I love NLC. I really like coming together for the All Class Retreats (ACR). The ACR is sort of like a wrap-up of what you did and what we are planning on doing next summer. It’s just really good getting to see all of your friends again. That’s probably my favorite part.”
Like the name of the event indicates, the All Class Retreat brings all the NLC classes together each February to hold a ceremony for the graduating class(es) and welcome the newest classes. I attended this year’s ACR and witnessed the quality of programming offered and the strong bonds built, so I wasn’t surprised by Carolyn’s answer. My time at the ACR left me impressed by The Monitor Project, where the students use the Christian Science Monitor to learn to pray for the world. I was equally impressed with how many students earned various levels of the Congressional Award. The Congressional Award, a prestigious award given by Congress, requires awardees to excel in leadership, service, exploration, physical fitness, and personal (spiritual) growth.
“Have you earned a Congressional Award?” I asked.
“Yes. I have earned my bronze and silver medals.”
It was impressive that Carolyn had exceeded the three certificate levels and was now working through the medal levels, with the gold medal as the highest honor.
“Part of the Congressional Award is personal growth. NLC requires it to be spiritual growth. What have you done to advance your spiritual growth?”
“For me, I decided to do something with my mentor. I chose to read the lesson each week and then we’d send each other emails sharing what we liked about the lesson. There was a weekly publication from Cedars. My mentor would send that to me along with some inspirational ideas. This year I plan on reading the Science and Health.”
“What about leadership and ethics… have you applied any of that in your daily life?”
“Definitely; there’s a lot about leadership and ethics in this program. It’s really cool applying that to your school and normal daily life.”
“For my Peru trip we had to raise at least $250 for building materials. My mentor’s brother filmed an interview of me, my mentor and my mom. He asked me questions about NLC and what I was doing. I went to my local church and gave a presentation about NLC and showed the video and mentioned why I was raising the money. My mentor and I are planning on doing a thank you video after the trip, sharing with them what we did.”
Carolyn continued, “Besides raising money for our trip, it’s important to help get the word out about DiscoveryBound, because a lot of the kids in my church don’t know about it yet.”
Impressed with what she had to say about NLC so far, I wanted to get down to the core… the whole purpose of what all Adventure Unlimited and DiscoveryBound programs are about.
“How does Christian Science fit into NLC?” I asked.
“It’s a really big part! Starting off, part of our personal development is your Christian Science growth. On each of our trips we’ve had amazing healings. There is a lot of spiritual growth in the NLC program. I don’t think it would work without it, honestly.”
Carolyn and I had a wonderful talk together, but before we shook hands and went our separate ways Carolyn had one last thing to say. Still with a large smile on her face, she looked me in the eyes, almost as I would expect another adult to do, but not a sixteen year old girl and said, “It’s been such a blessing for me. I have 20 friends I can call… It’s just so great to know you have that support. It’s worth it. It’s really been great for me. I think it would be great for anyone who joined honestly.”