The First Word: Walking Alongside Our Students

Recently I visited with the worshipping community at Second Baptist Church in Evanston. North Park and Second Baptist live side-by-side. The church’s senior pastor, Rev. Mark Dennis, is a recent trustee at the University; the director of music is on the faculty in our School of Music; the director of the children’s choir is a North Park graduate; one of the staff members in North Park’s Collaboratory for Urban and Intercultural Learning leads a wonderful collaboration between the young people of this African American church and those of Beth Emet congregation to be markers of reconciliation in the city of Evanston; and many others in the congregation have ties to the University.

On that Sunday I visited to hear Dr. Allan Boesak preach, as he was to be a guest in our home for dinner that evening and then present on North Park’s campus for the next two days. Much more than this, however, I met a wonderful group of teenagers who were recognized for completing the church’s Rite of Passage Experience. Some churches call this confirmation, others carry differing nomenclature.

At Second Baptist, the Rite of Passage program “is designed to provide an Afri-centric, Christian foundation for youth…[giving them] the tools to become successful in life and to be the best that they can be while following in God’s footsteps.”

We often refer to this kind of care between generations as “mentoring.” At North Park I like to describe it as “walking alongside our students.”

The feature article of this issue of the North Parker picks up on this theme. Here we describe, largely through photographs with just a bit of text, what it means to walk alongside our students. What is presented is only an illustration, a small number of examples taken from a large number of cases.

Ask any student today to describe what is special about their North Park experience and they will quickly tell you about an out-of-the-ordinary relationship. The same is true, I’ve discovered, with our graduates—both recent and more distant. North Park is a place of relationships, a place of mentoring, a place of walking alongside.

I’m confident that in reading this issue of the North Parker you will identify closely with one or more of these stories, and in doing so you will recall those who walked alongside you during your days at North Park.

Next Steps

Read more from the Winter 2014 North Parker.

President David Parkyn