Ministry wants to help teens chase their dreams
Akron, Ohio – — Brandon Kightlinger and his friends are seeking teen dreamers.
His 10-person team wants to provide support to local youth so they can pursue those dreams.
Welcome to Generation Akron Inc., a nonprofit Akron group that offers faith-based and motivational programs to change young lives.
The Christian ministry for teens uses school assemblies, mentoring programs and Bible clubs to help youths cope with real-life problems and to equip them with leadership skills.
Kightlinger’s team presented its message recently with rock and rap music, free posters and T-shirts, strobe lights and video and in-person testimonials to about 180 ninth-graders at Akron’s St. Vincent-St. Mary High School.
The high-energy program impressed the students.
“It’s really good advice,” said 14-year-old Keeyanna Curley.
Added Emma Overholt, 14. “It was inspirational. I liked it.”
The program relies on a holistic approach and includes big doses of faith and hope and some cheerleading and prayer. It is about connections, caring, changing lives and building relationships.
Its message is not about abuse, depression, bullying, alcohol, drugs, loneliness, sex or inner pain, although all were referenced in the assembly in the school’s theater.
At least one young woman at the school reached out to Generation Akron via a text message after the assembly about her deepening depression. She was directed to meet with a school counselor to get help, said Kightlinger, who is a son of a pastor.
These situations happen frequently, he said.
Help for troubled teens is available through teachers, counselors, principals and coaches, as well as an array of medical and social service agencies in the community, he said.
The Akron assembly was designed to help the students reject apathy and fear and to build hope and trust. The goal is to make the youths bold and free. It is about positive living, developing a new way of life.
The teens were reminded that they are not defined by the mistakes of their parents or their own past mistakes and they are not defined by the opinions of other people. The key is to take over their lives and live them differently.
“God loves you,” he told the students. “God deeply loves you.”
Generation Akron has taken its message to other local high schools in the last three-plus years. That resulted in a new student Bible group forming recently at one of them, said Kightlinger, a volunteer football coach at Akron’s Garfield High School, his alma mater.
His group generally refrains from religious references and does not mention prayer at public schools, focusing instead on nonreligious motivational steps, he said.
“We want people to belong. You don’t have to believe,” he said.
The group was formed and began its efforts in 2009 after extensive prayer and awareness of the need for such support for local teens, he said.