Local families create home-like atmosphere for students

A lot of students are familiar with what is perhaps the most common sickness on a college campus: homesickness.

Common symptoms include the typical severe craving for home cooked food, missing a pet or even the desperate desire to spend an entire Saturday afternoon doing nothing but laying on the couch watching classic movies from your childhood (The Sandlot, anyone?)

But a local church on campus, Twin City Bible Church (TCBC), located in Urbana, seems to have found a way to combat this ailment with its Adopt-a-Student program.

The program seeks to match older members and families of the church with college students to connect them with other members of the church community and give them a better overall college experience.

“Twin City Bible Church has always had a focus on college students from when the church started 75 plus years ago,” said Shannon Caughey, senior pastor at TCBC. “We’re constantly thinking about ways to better care for college students and that type of thing.”

Students and members of the congregation alike each fill out forms if they want to get involved with the program to match them according to certain criteria. Students are asked questions regarding what their interests are, if they like animals and how they feel about children, while the same information is collected from the families asking to become “parents.” In previous years, between 50 and 60 students have joined the program.

Caughey said that the program requires families to meet with their students at least twice a semester, and asks them to pray for their students weekly (although he added that most meet much more often). The exact activities, however, could range.

“It can be all over the board,” he said. “It could be having dinner at the family’s home or seeing a movie together. We’ve had our students even come to our kids’ sporting events.” Caughey added that students have even brought laundry over before.

Each year, the program starts off with a Harvest Party, Caughey said, where the entire church is invited out to one of the church member’s property for a fall gathering with the goal of giving students the first opportunity to connect with the families who will be “adopting” them.

“I really enjoy just hanging out,” said Abby Ekstrand, senior in Engineering and participant in the program since her sophomore year. “My favorite part about it is that I get a break from campus and I feel like I’m almost back at home enjoying myself.”

Ekstrand said that some of the past things she’s done with her adopted family include Super Bowl parties, pumpkin carving and dying Easter eggs.

“I think they [the students] feel more a part of the church as they get to know the families and the older adults within the church community,” said Lara Canales, who hosts adopted students each year and came up with the idea four years ago.

Canales and her husband had been part of a similar program when they were in college, which is where they got the idea.

“I think this gives students a chance to get involved versus just going to church,” she said.

But Canales also thinks the program has had a positive affect on her own family.

“We love it,” she said. “It’s been great for us, and my kids. It’s good for them to see Christ in ‘cool’ college kids versus just mom and dad.”

But even if you’re not great with kids, the program provides an opportunity to escape from everyday college life.

“Classes can get mundane and monotonous, so it adds a little bit of a difference thrown in there,” said Ekstrand.