Co-Ed Grow Group: Inside Eastern’s newest movement toward student inclusivity.

Among the various weekly occurrences at Eastern, whether that be Chapel, club meetings, or Wednesday Night Worship, Grow Group aims to establish community within each residence hall and to openly be in one another’s presence while focusing on Christ. Recently, Grow Group’s goal of establishing community and conversation surrounding Christ has expanded beyond residence halls. Co-Ed Grow Group, led by Colton Domblesky and Faith Lauffer, gives students the opportunity to attend a Grow Group that is free from restrictions regarding one’s place of living or biological sex. Meeting every Tuesday at 9 P.M., this never-done-before Grow Group aims to create a comfortable and inclusive space without any barriers regarding who is allowed to attend.

“The goal is to draw people in and show people Christ, what it means to follow Christ, and what it means to have a relationship with Christ,” Lauffer said.

The new meetings of the Co-Ed Grow Group are very free-spirited and planned around what the attendees would like to see. Regarding the first meeting’s activities, “one of the first things we did was ask what they [the attendees] wanted. I think it’s mainly about giving the power to them,” Lauffer explained. There are no preconceived perceptions associated with what the attendees may prefer during the meeting; instead, the student chaplains make sure that all voices are heard and addressed on a neutral basis.

Without a Co-Ed Grow Group, Domblesky and Lauffer note the possible discomfort and/or lack of involvement that may take place within students who are transitioning, gender fluid, would like a space outside of their assigned hall’s Grow Group, or simply “want a different environment” as Lauffer stated. While all Grow Groups, co-ed or not, provide a safe space for many students to learn and talk about Christ, the Co-Ed Grow Group does not have any restrictions as to who can attend within the student body, hence elevating the level of comfort for students. “It’s just making sure we are creating that safe space for all students, not just students who are in the LGBT community; it could be students who don’t feel comfortable going to their chaplain or have a friend who is another chaplain,” Domblesky said. Both Domblesky and Lauffer hope that these Co-ed Grow Groups will continue on Eastern’s campus after they both graduate, while being a safe space on campus for all who attend.

Both Colton Domblesky and Faith Lauffer began the Co-Ed Grow Group with a desire to spread and learn about the Word of God without any barriers or discomforts present. Lauffer spoke about the
female and male Grow Groups with fellow student chaplain and friend, Malicka Encarnacion. “We have a
duty to be with people who may struggle to be reached by other people,” Lauffer shared.

The ever-present divide between people who are LGBTQIA+ and people with disapproving theologies
have caused many to turn away from Christianity entirely. This inclusive Grow Group aims to combat this issue while ensuring that everyone can have communion with others in Christ’s Word without worldly apprehension. “I think it’s just something that Eastern really needs to look into now, especially in this day and age when division is such a big problem, and making sure people are included and not a part of that
divide,” Domblesky said.

The leaders of the Co-Ed Grow Group, among many other Eastern students and staff members, have emphasized the importance of bringing forth change in the Eastern community regarding the inclusion of people who identify as LGBTQIA+ Yearning for this change towards community and understanding, Domblesky states, “It’s more so recognizing that people are being recognized and feel valued by God and by their peers,” Domblesky said. “What we want to happen we need to create,” Lauffer
said, yearning for this change towards inclusivity.

 

Turning Point keeps on singing: A look at the choir’s newest members as they waved their graduates goodbye.

While well-known for their beautiful sounds and performances, Turning Point (TP) dives into the world of music with awareness and appreciation towards their fellow members and the pieces in which they work on.

TP differs from the other choirs on Eastern’s campus because of the smaller size, the challenging repertoire, and the tight-knit bonds that are built among all members. Wilson, a returning member, contrasts TP from his high school choir. “You can really focus on the individuals that are making the music and not just the fact that music is being made,” Zack Wilson shares.

As of this year, TP has introduced five new members: Anna Davis, Benjamin McGovern, Amelia
Thomas, Ryan Kratz, and Hailey Ferry. In addition to this, this year’s TP contains several members who will graduate following the 2021 spring semester. Overall, new members and returning members are constantly teaching each other new things relating to music, performance, friendship, and beyond.

Before auditioning for Turning Point, Anna Davis witnessed the group perform at Chapel and was “very
impressed by the sound and the energy,” Davis shares. After auditioning, Davis was excited to become a new member of the group she had previously watched and listened to in admiration. Davis felt as though she fit into TP well because “we all came in having practiced the music a little over the summer. It was very fresh to us,” Davis explained.

Regardless of the fact that returning members may have more experience, Davis shared how she is constantly learning; specifically, members are “very open to critiquing and open to advice,” Davis explains.

As a new member, Davis was surprised about how it was harder to blend with one person as opposed to
an entire choir. However, the ensemble gets together a week before classes start to work on initial difficulties, while also working on bonding and music pieces. “This is a chance for us to welcome the new members, find our specific sound, and reconnect with returning members,” Bobby Fisher shared. From watching this exquisite group perform to becoming a part of this special group, Anna Davis finds excitement and growth within each TP practice.

Among Turning Point’s returning members, Zack Wilson, Christine Carey, and Bobby Fisher shared the impact of this group when they had first joined. While reflecting on his first impression of joining TP, Zack Wilson explains how he felt intimidated but also blessed to be surrounded by so many talented individuals. “I sat there feeling overwhelmed, but in a good way. Like I get to sing with these people. How and why? But I am glad,” Wilson explained.

Christine Carey shared feelings of excitement when she first joined. “You wanted to be a part of it the second you heard them. So I was just really excited” Carney explained. Feeling new to TP may be behind these returning members; however, they are reflective on past feelings of newness to the group.

Bobby Fisher, a senior, has felt the music and relationships formed in TP impact his perception of
music and the unity that it creates. This year, Fisher explained how TP is stripping down the music to “talk more about things like the poetry, why it is that we are singing certain pieces or what they mean to us,” Fisher stated.

He applauds the hard work of both new and returning members. “The new members have come in and worked their tails off and made an effort to connect with the group, and the returners have done such a good job of making the newbies feel like they belong,” Fisher said.

Additionally, Fisher hopes that TP gives all members, especially newbies, the chance to “just escape into the beautiful music and poetry that we are making,” Fisher explained.

Navigating COVID-19 Class Schedules: Tips for staying on track and connected despite new class formats.

Thrust into a world of Zoom and face masks, it is reasonable to assume that many students are overwhelmed by the new transition of a heavily online-based semester. Online classes, hybrid classes, in-person classes, and extracurricular activities require students to acquire new class and time management formats in a manner that may feel daunting and unfamiliar. In order to ease possible apprehension, there are ways to manage the new learning environment we are entangled in.

Without in-person reminders from instructors to complete certain assignments or study for given assessments, it can become hard to keep track of what tasks need to be completed. Additionally, for hybrid classes, confusion may arise regarding the days in which classes will be meeting in-person. By writing everything down, individuals will remember the upcoming task better while having it serve as a reminder. Even simple tasks, such as picking up a package from the mail center, can be written down to ensure completion. Checking off tasks once they are completed will nurture the feeling of accomplishment and relief that one has successfully adhered to the day’s duties. Specifically, since some or all classes may be online, it may help to use the “Google Calendar” setting within your email account to electronically schedule and set reminders for oneself. In using this feature, one will be alerted when assignments and activities are taking place. Overall, intentionally setting aside time to write down tasks can make the process of online-learning a lot less intimidating than it needs to be.

While the logistics of remaining on-task are important to attend to, it is equally important to find creative ways to engage with others during online classes, hybrid classes, in-person classes, and extracurricular activities. Using apps, such as Spotify, to create a collaboration of studying or recreational playlists with fellow classmates can help spread a feeling of connectedness among physical separation. By having one student create the playlist, and other students recommending songs to make up the playlist, a sense of connectedness and camaraderie in the academic setting will be reignited. Furthermore, students can listen to the songs whenever and wherever while learning about their fellow classmates’ musical interests. Time management and handling one’s responsibilities directly is undeniably important. However, it is also valuable to establish friendships and creativity throughout times of separation.

Feelings of apprehension are understandably heightened within this online-based academic semester. The use of recording daily tasks can aid students in remembering and completing the duties for
the day. Moreover, the creation of a class playlist can aid creativity and community within a physically separated academic setting. This semester may feel different, but there are many ways to find connections and academic success.