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Young Adult Volunteers challenged and changed during orientation

YAVs begin service year after weeklong training at Stony Point

by Kathy Melvin | Presbyterian News Service

The 2016 Young Adult Volunteers and support staff at Stony Point Conference Center, New York. (Photo courtesy Bridgette Lewis)

The 2016 Young Adult Volunteers and support staff at Stony Point Conference Center, New York. (Photo courtesy Bridgette Lewis)

LOUISVILLE – The lives of 79 young adults were transformed over the past week as the 2016-2017 Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) class gathered at Stony Point Conference Center in New York to begin their YAV experience; each signed up for “a year of service for a lifetime of change.”

Some wonder if these 79 new YAVs will all become ordained pastors.

“What we hope is that all will go into faithful service after this time of vocational discernment,” said Richard Williams, coordinator of the YAV program. He said an average, about 30 percent become teaching elders, and most of the other 70 percent go into nonprofit work, healthcare, education, legal or government service. “But what our alums say is that no matter what they are doing after their service, how they are doing it is very different after living and serving in the YAV program.”

From the 11 denominations represented in this year’s class, 20 YAVs will live and work at one of six international sites and the other 58 will serve at one of 14 national sites. YAVs are placed in community agencies or local nonprofits, with work placements depending on the needs of the partners and the skills of the individual. Spanning ages 19-30, YAVs live in intentional Christian communities.

In September, the 2015-2016 class that recently completed their service will meet for a time of reflection, sharing and imagining of where God is calling them. The orientation, periodic reflection times and this post-transition retreat at the end of the service year are among the components that set the YAV program apart from other volunteer opportunities available for young adults.

All YAVs are eligible for health insurance and student loan assistance, but they are also responsible for a portion of their own fundraising, usually around $3,000-$4,000.

During the orientation week Williams said YAVs cover a lot of topics from confronting racism and sexism and privilege to looking at how to serve in an interfaith world. “This week is meant to be intentionally challenging,” said Williams. “We will push their limits. We are not looking to keep comfortable people comfortable.”

After orientation YAVs travel directly to their placement sites and begin local orientation. For domestic YAVs, that means 1-2 weeks and for international YAVs it is 2-4 weeks. There are several YAV sites opening again after a short hiatus. Four YAVs will serve in the Philippines this year and four YAVs will serve in Zambia.

The YAV program begins accepting applications for the 2017-2018 class in October. To start an application, receive answers to frequently asked questions or to donate to the program, visit

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