Religious groups offer more than faith

Growing up, I spent all 12 years of my K-12 education attending a private, Christian high school that tried its best to shelter students from the real world. This sheltering only caused students to hunt for the dark and mysterious realities of the outside world even more, and the more and more the school applied rules, the more student rebelled.

When I came to college, I expected to find all the things my high school had tried to hide from me for the last four years plus more. I wanted to find an organization or group that could help me to maintain the values I had been taught all my life, but one that also let me grow into the person I wanted to be, rather than the person the group expected me to be. The place I found these types of relationships was the last place I expected to find it at, and the last place I expected to even walk through the doors.

The Georgia Tech Catholic Center has become like a second home for me, even though I was raised Methodist and went to a Church of Christ K-12 school. I had a little exposure to Catholicism, but never enough to where I would expect myself comfortable enough to walk into the Catholic Center and seek advice from a Catholic priest. Father Kevin Peek of the Catholic Center has become one of the people I respect most on this campus, and one of the first people I seek out for advice, regardless of what arena I need advice in. All the members and leaders of the Catholic Center have welcomed me without any disdain for not being Catholic or following all of their belief systems.

It can be intimidating to come to college and know the type of person you want to be, who can get you there and what group can best nurture you to achieve such a character. For me, one of the first things I looked for was a religious community that I could fit into and feel welcomed in, while still getting to go through all experiences and opportunities that college has to offer. Luckily, Tech, and really Atlanta as a whole, offers so many resources for environments to help students become the person they want to be and achieve their aspirations. I have had great experiences with organizations like the CCF, the BCM, the Catholic Center on campus and also with Passion City Church, Midtown Bridge and Grace Midtown off campus.

I have so many memories from my freshman year of walking back to my dorm after the long walk down freshman hill and a long day of classes to find members of CCF giving away free food. Without questions asked, they were standing out on the corner offering hot chocolate on cold days and donuts in the spring. This year, every time I walk pass the CCF, it seems that they are offering “free lunches and free friends” to every student that passes. Regardless of who the student is or what they do, they are welcome to the CCF to find community and friendship.

My freshman year, one of my close friends invited me to the BCM on a random Tuesday night for one of their gatherings. I had low expectations, but came away shocked by how kind and welcoming every person I met was. I ended up playing intramurals with them and going back to their Tuesday gatherings, and I was never once asked if I was Baptist, or even if I was religious. The BCM has been another place that I have found great friends and community, and never had to worry about being accepted.

I began attending Passion City Church my senior year in high school, and I began going to other churches around the city once I became a student at Tech. At every place of worship I have made amazing friends, and I’ve never been afraid of being myself. No matter where you are in your religious walk, even if its nonexistent, people are welcoming and excited to meet you.

No matter what organization or people you choose to surround yourself with, make sure they push you to be the person you want to be, not the person they expect you to be. College is about growing into the people we are meant to be. Find people that can support you in that, not hold you back.