Project Focus started off as one brilliant idea that stemmed from a desire for more student leadership and mentorship. In its original form, students were required to make a two-SOAR commitment: one to work on their own spiritual growth and another to stir spiritual growth in others.
Now, this year Project Focus has been restructured into two branches: the Tuesday SOAR, focused on personal spiritual growth, retains the name Project Focus. The Thursday SOAR, Project Lead, will actively plan events aimed at spiritual growth for the school. There is no longer a two-SOAR requirement.
Not many students know how this amazing program was started. It all began on a field trip to the 9/11 Memorial. Mr. James Uitermarkt and Mrs. Leah Genuario discussed how much they wanted students to become spiritual leaders in the school. There, an amazing passion began to grow. The work was taken on by 5 teachers with a passion for student discipleship. The original group was about 22. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, school-wide events were planned throughout the year by Project Focus as a whole, and those leaders were also mentored. Some examples of the work included See You at the Pole, a prayer summit with pastors from around the area, and spiritual emphasis week.
Yet a traumatic pandemic has shifted student needs and school culture and this spiritual discipleship program has shifted as well. Let’s examine these two related SOARs in detail.
“For Project Focus, the goal this year is to provide tools for a deeper understanding of Christ. This way students can represent Christ wherever they go,” says Mr. Stephen Bailey who is going to be running Project Focus along with Ms. Carrie Johnson. Both Mr. Bailey’s and Ms. Johnson’s role this year is to provide the tools that students need such as sitting in Scripture, listening to God, and finding out how much God loves you. Mr. Bailey says that God has used him in many ways. He says “A gift of mine is when something needs to be paused and when we need to sit and rest on something in the room. Sometimes we need to throw out plans to make room for what God is doing.” This has led way for amazing things that have happened. The school has seen spiritual growth like never before through student-led small groups outside of school, worship nights (which they hope to do more of this year), and growth from the meetings themselves. Project Focus wants students to take their walk with Christ more seriously and to step out of their comfort zone. This group is not exclusive; all are invited to strengthen their walk with Christ.
While Project Focus helps strengthens students in their walk with Christ, Project Lead hopes to lead more students in the school closer to Christ and is working to cultivate a school culture that points to Christ. This group is led by Mrs. Genuario and Mr. Uitermarkt. When asked what a day in Project Lead looks like she says “The plan for Project Lead is to start with devotions and get right into planning school-wide events.” Mrs. Genuario hopes to see several events happen including See You at the Pole, Spiritual Emphasis Week, and an intergenerational community event. One event that changed Mrs. Genuario’s life was the prayer summit on Dec 19. Run by students and inspired by a student whose congregation prays out loud, simultaneously more than 70 people joined in prayer. The prayer summit was followed by a chapel with an altar call, and many came forward to dedicate and remediate their life to Christ. There, many lives were changed. A moment that Mrs. Genuario will always remember is “hearing different generations, ethnicities, and languages all praying out loud together is something I will never forget.” A strong sense of discipleship is important to lead others closer to Christ.
Mrs. Genuario adds, “My hope is that through God’s direction, these SOARs and the people involved changed the school and the lives of the students because it cultivates a God-centered community and brings awareness that no matter who you are, we are all called to be followers of Christ.”