Grace Presbytery Senior High Youth Connection: January 28-30
Approximately 750 senior high youth and adult sponsors will arrive at Austin College Friday evening, January 28, for the Grace Presbytery Senior High Youth Connection (SHYC), ready for a weekend focusing on the theme “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” Thirty-five current members of the Austin College ACtivators mobile youth ministry team will have roles in planning and leading the conference; this year, the students will be joined by some 25 Austin College alumni who served as ACtivators while attending college.
Those alumni will be on campus to celebrate the 500th ministry event of the ACtivators since its founding in February 1995. In the past 16 years, the program has involved 441 Austin College students who have traveled more than 143,000 miles to help plan and lead 499 ministry events involving more than 41,000 children, youth, college students, adults, and senior citizens
After meeting in metroplex churches in 1977-1979, Grace Presbytery, which comprises 173 Presbyterian congregations in northeast Texas, began holding its annual senior high conference at Austin College in January 1980. With the exception of two cancellations due to bad weather, SHYC since has taken place at Austin College each year.
The event is the largest annual presbytery youth gathering in the nation. Many Austin College students have made their first visits to campus as participants in the senior high event over the past 30 years.
The ACtivators group got its beginning in 1995 when five students joined Austin College chaplain John Williams, Austin College Class of 1984, as leaders at an event for Santa Fe Presbytery in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The program was a hit and paved the way for future events. Amy Allen Parker, Class of 1995, was among those initial leaders. In an anniversary celebration of the program’s 15th year in 2010, she explained that those five individuals had no idea that a program would grow from that event or all that it would become. “I’m so proud of Austin College and I’m proud that the ACtivators have made a name for ourselves in terms of a presence in the community and something people can associate with the College in a real, positive way. But we never dreamed that was what we were doing; we just got in the car and headed for Santa Fe Presbytery.”
The students are not necessarily interested in a career in ministry; they represent a wide variety of academic majors and religious backgrounds—but share a common commitment to young people and providing examples of fun, active college students who have faith in God. Several students have ended up in ministry, with more than 20 serving as full-time clergy or educators in the Presbyterian Church (USA), and several others are involved in other church work or in seminary.
Austin College is a leading national independent liberal arts college located north of Dallas in Sherman, Texas. Founded in 1849, making it the oldest institution of higher education in Texas operating under original charter and name, the college is related by covenant to the Presbyterian Church (USA). Recognized nationally for academic excellence in the areas of international education, pre-professional training, and leadership studies, Austin College is one of 40 schools profiled in Loren Pope’s influential book Colleges that Change Lives.