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New YAV class will be commissioned Sunday in virtual ceremony

YAVs will be traveling to seven domestic sites, South Korea and Scotland

by Kathy Melvin | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — The Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) program will commission 33 members of the 2021-22 class virtually Sunday.

The ceremony will be carried live on the Young Adult Volunteer Facebook page at 4 p.m. Eastern Time.

The YAV program is an ecumenical, faith-based year of service for young people (ages 19–30) in sites across the United States and around the world. YAVs accompany local agencies working to address root causes of poverty and reconciliation. Alongside this work, volunteers explore the meaning of their Christian faith and accountability to their neighbors in the community with peers and mentors.

The class of 2020-21 participated in a virtual YAV year, but currently plans are underway for YAVs to travel to seven national sites, as well as South Korea and Scotland. For the first time, the Peru YAV site will be staffed by Peruvian YAVs under the direction of site coordinator Jenny Valles Koball.

This year’s domestic sites include Albuquerque, New Mexico; Asheville, North Carolina; Chinook, Montana; New Orleans; New York City; Tucson, Arizona; and Washington, D.C.

Despite the challenges created by the pandemic, the YAV program has responded to the call to serve in creative ways.

This year’s orientation event has added a chaplain for the first time. The Rev. Alexandra Zareth, who works on leadership development for leaders of color in Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries will fill that role. She will be joined by the Rev. Dr. Kathryn Threadgill, associate director for Theology, Formation & Evangelism, who will lead Bible studies throughout the week. Ellen Sherby, World Mission’s coordinator for Equipping for Mission Involvement, will talk to the group about the mission of partnership. Mel Tubb from Financial Aid for Service and Anisha Hackney from Human Resources are also scheduled speakers. The small group discussion leaders will be YAV alums, including the Rev. Lee Catoe, Simon Doong, the Rev. Rebecca Barnes, the Rev. Sarah Henken, the Rev. Dori Hjalmarson and Rob Fohr.

“Even though they may not have served as YAVs for five or 10 years, they know very well the anxiety the volunteers feel about going out and serving for a year in a Christian context,” said Destini Hodges, interim YAV coordinator. “Who knows better than our mission co-workers who have devoted their lives to this work.”

Since the YAVs will not be able to meet in person for orientation, Hodges said the YAV office will host online quarterly meetings for the YAVs so they can stay in touch and have the opportunity to offer support to one another.

The YAV program is for all Christian young adults, not exclusively Presbyterians, in the belief that people are called and equipped by God for service in many forms. Since the early 1990s, more than 1,700 young adults have participated in a year of service at 45 different sites in 19 countries.

Benefits during the year of service include a regular stipend, housing, coverage of all program-related transportation costs and student-loan assistance through the Season of Service Loan Assistance program. The SSLA program provides a quarterly direct payment to the YAV’s student loan servicer equal to $250 per month of service, helping pay down a student loan by up to $3,000 for a year of service.

During a year of service, YAVs accompany local agencies working to address reconciliation and the root causes of poverty and injustice. They serve in communities of need, practice simple living, explore vocational discernment, and — along with peers and mentors — discover new things about themselves, their faith and the world around them.

In its 30-year history, the Young Adult Volunteer program has produced future ministers of word and sacrament, ruling elders, educators and leaders of nonprofit organizations. During this special virtual year, some are getting the opportunity to learn in-depth about the Presbyterian Mission Agency and its ministries.

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