Campus Life, a national youth organization, now has a footprint in Bellevue Public Schools after being in the metro for 52 years.
The program is an arm of Youth for Christ, a non-denominational ministry first founded in 1944 under the direction of The Rev. Billy Graham.
The program is for students in fifth through 12th grade.
It kicked off at Mission Middle School and both BPS high schools, before or after school, with plans to expand to other BPS buildings, according to Bellevue Campus Life Director Jarell Roach.
“I’ve been amazed by the reception from BPS school administrators. Mr. [Frank] Harwood, the superintendent, was very, very receptive,” Roach said.
“They’ve all been incredible to work with and are ready for us to get started.”
Don Bacon, a former Offutt Air Force Base 55th Wing commander, pitched the plan with Roach to Harwood, and each shared the impact the program had on them as teenagers.
“After he heard our stories, Mr. Harwood said, ‘Do us a favor and stay around for a while,’” Roach said.
Roach, an Airman in the Air National Guard, has twice deployed with the 155th Civil Engineer Squadron, in addition to a four-year active duty assignment as a civil operator with Nebraska’s National Guard’s Counter-drug Task Force.
But his life’s passion is to raise up leaders in Bellevue.
“We want to raise up leaders, and by all means, introduce people to Christ and get them connected to churches in the community,” said Roach, who has 16 years experience with the ministry. “As kids grow, so does the community.’”
Ted Plugge, the metro area ministry director, said the goal is to get to know students and connect them with churches in the community, using curriculum from their nationwide organization.
“We want to broker relationships between church, family, schools and students,” Plugge said.
Club activities are designed to mix fun with faith and to build relationships with caring adults, he said.
“We’ll start with exciting, interactive games, talk about faith and have adult volunteers in small groups with students to hear their stories — with about a seven-student to one adult ratio,” Plugge said. “We then get back together in a large group for about 10 minutes to talk about issues of today, be it bullying or whatever and tie it to Biblical principles.”
He said about 40 local churches are included in the partnership discussions.
“I’ve got hundreds of anecdotal stories of kids’ lives literally being saved by having caring adults being involved,” he said.