The following was written by Caroline Doughty, high school senior from Ark and Dove Presbyterian Church in Odenton, Maryland. Caroline wrote this for her college applications and then shared it with us.
"The place I feel perfectly content is GenOn Youth Summit, a week-long religious conference I attend every summer with young adults who want to retreat from their normal lives to enrich their relationship with God and with others. Outside of GenOn, teenagers are surrounded by harsh language and peer pressure, and they feel as though they must conform to society's expectations. At GenOn, the environment is very different. I feel as though I become the best version of myself; someone who listens to God, someone who builds meaningful relationships with others, and someone who isn't angry or jealous. At GenOn, I am with Christians like myself who share my beliefs and values, and I am encouraged to be myself without the pressure of the outside world.
All participants are accepted at GenOn, and are encouraged to be themselves, with no external pressures. At this conference, like everywhere else in the world, there is a mix of different personalities and different cultures, and participants meet people they would never have met in their lives outside of GenOn. Everyone is very welcoming. Through Bible study and activities, participants are able to form life-long friendships. The acceptance that participants experience at GenOn is unique to this community; when participants meet one another, the conversations flow easily and it is easy for them to feel that they truly belong. No one is ever judged or ridiculed or avoided, and everyone has an important role in worship and other activities. Every year on the night of closing worship, there is an experience called “Say So”, based on the Bible verse, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so”. All participants are encouraged to tell the congregation about how Jesus has moved them this week or how this conference has made their faith stronger. The people who speak usually share intimate details about their life; whether it is a struggle with family members, or a traumatic experience in their past. These people feel safe enough to share this information with hundreds of people who were strangers a week before, and they are able to show their vulnerability. These participants share their weaknesses and their fears, and how God has helped them to realize their strength.
My experience at GenOn each year inspires me to rediscover the importance of service. Every year, there is a day dedicated to mission in which participants help the community surrounding the college campus they inhabit for a week. In the past, GenOn participants have cleaned up a town after a disastrous hurricane, refurbished a nature path, and sorted used clothes at a clothes bank. These experiences build a stronger camaraderie among groups of attendees as they participate in worthwhile services to those less fortunate and blessed than they. I feel a tremendous sense of happiness afterward, and a renewed sense of gratitude to God for enabling me to have a safe, happy life in contrast to others who do not have that privilege. When I return from GenOn each year, I have a clearer view of what is important in the world. I also seek out service opportunities with my church. I hope to take these values of acceptance and service with me throughout the rest of my life. I want to serve others, and I want to help them accept themselves, regardless of their past behavior. I want to help others feel more accepted. The experiences that I have had at GenOn have helped me to discover my passion for service, and have strongly influenced my decision to pursue a future in the field of social work or psychology."
Want to learn more about the Summits (there are two)? Download the information packet here.