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Reaching out to teenagers

Posted: February 4, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: February 4, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Local members of Fun Life Beyond celebrate during last year’s summer camp. Fun Life Beyond is a Christian ministry for young adults with special needs. The group is part of Santa Clarita Valley Young Life, a growing local organization that supports local youth as they connect to God.

The volunteers behind Young Life keep two goals with every program they offer for local youth: reach out to adolescents with the hope of sharing God’s love and provide mentor relationships for them during the often confusing and difficult process of growing up.

Santa Clarita Valley Young Life is a part of the larger faith-based international organization that reaches out to teens and into college and adulthood. Within the local community, they offer chapters that reach out to teens in junior high and high school, teens and young adults with mental and physical disabilities and teen moms.

“We are reaching out to teens who may have never been to church,” Young Life Director and Capernaum Western Division Coordinator John Pantellas said. “We teach them about what it means to have faith.”

The organization, which is largely volunteer-based, offers weekly Bible studies and events along with a yearly camp experience. Each week, the different chapters of Young Life meet as “clubs” in another student’s home and hear a message, watch skits or sing songs.

Pantellas explained that adult volunteers in Young Life hope to befriend kids, gain their trust and provide mentor-type relationships to them.

“Adult volunteers work with teens for a positive relationship and influence,” he said.

The organization recruits and trains parents, teachers, coaches and past participants to volunteer and become mentors for the teens. The Santa Clarita area trains and develops more than 60 adult volunteers to help with each chapter.

Young Life has served the Santa Clarita Valley for more than 25 years, and Young Life International was established nearly 70 years ago. 

Sharing God’s love

Linda Adams and Sherry Bird, parents of young adults in the Fun Life program for mentally or physically disabled participants expressed their gratitude for Young Life.

“It has been so amazing for my son Matt. He has been able to do all of the activities that the other teens do that he may have otherwise missed out on,” Adams said. “I am so thankful for Nancy and John, and their willingness to help and be involved.”

Sherry Bird has four adult children with special needs who have gone through the program. She says the experience has been especially beneficial for them.

“They really have blossomed,” Bird said. “It is a really good group of people who are there with and for them.”

Young Life offers groups for the east and west side’s of the Santa Clarita Valley, currently serving nearly 100 teens and young adults.

John and Nancy felt especially called to serve the chapter of Young Life that ministers to teens and young adults with special needs.

“We all walk away feeling so blessed and loved,” Nancy Pantellas said. “They teach us so much about loving unconditionally.”

Nancy Pantellas, John’s wife and Young Life area administrative coordinator, had a personal connection with Young Life. She attended Young Life groups as a teen and later developed the desire to return and serve God through Young Life.

Many participants attest that they have been given a place to get away from the stress and pressure of being a teenager. “I really wanted others to be able to experience what I had experienced,” Nancy Pantellas said. “Give teens a place where we show God’s love and people know them and love them for who they are.”


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