'There's a lot of family out there'
It's Juan Gonzalez's first year volunteering at Spring Thaw, but the Youth Ministry major knows a thing or two about the event — he attended the retreat with his youth group all four years of high school. "I got saved in eighth grade and was surrounded by a great community and a great youth group," he says. "It made me want to provide the same thing for other kids."
Now a freshman at MU, Gonzalez is excited to contribute to an event that changed his life year after year. "When I was in high school, I'd see only about two other Christians at my school," he says. "But when I came to Spring Thaw, I would get so fired up when I saw how many Christians were here. This event shows people a broader community of believers; it lets them know that there's a lot of family out there."
Gonzalez will wear many hats during the weekend event, and he's eager for each one. "I'll be volunteering in the puppy room and helping out with with junta darts and operation underground," he says. "I want to branch myself out in this community, and I'm excited to get to know more youth groups."
'It's quality fun'
Katie MacDonald is busy turning Roger's Café into a Disney-themed karaoke hot spot: New lights glisten from the ceiling, clouds billow from a fog machine and a disco ball winks over the stage. It's the psychology major's second year volunteering at the event, and she's glowing with enthusiasm. "Disney karaoke is going to be super magical," she says. "My friend and I are going to MC and dress up like princesses; it's going to be awesome."
The junior hopes the karaoke lounge — and all of Spring Thaw for that matter — will be a place where students can relax and have a good time." So often high schoolers get so involved in what other people think about them," she says. "I want them to remember that they're still kids and can have fun. They can be real with each other and let God work. We want them to find their identity in Christ and not anywhere else."
'I want to be a role model'
Rodney DeJager, a Youth Ministry major, agrees. "MU is a safe environment for these students," he says. "We've been praying that the Holy Spirit will be working in them."
The senior has a big heart for high schoolers. "It's a really crucial time in peoples' lives," he says "I appreciated the support and encouragement I got from my youth pastor. Now I want to be a role model."
This will be DeJager's third year as a volunteer and his second year as an intern. He and a group of five other interns have taken months to dream, brainstorm, budget and plan for the 44-hour retreat. "It's a valuable experience," he says. "We've talked about all this stuff in freshman and sophomore classes, and now I'm putting it into practice."
DeJager will continue to hone his leadership skills this weekend as he joins the more than 200 Multnomah volunteers that make the retreat successful. "Spring Thaw is great for marketing and publicity, but it really shows our school's heart for people," he says. "MU genuinely cares for these high school students. It wants to give them this gift — and reach hearts for Christ."
Registration is full, but visit the Spring Thaw website for more information about this retreat.