Trailhead Teens Explore Their Faith, Futures

Students enjoy a cruise around the Santa Barbara Harbor as part of Trailhead

Students enjoy a cruise around the Santa Barbara Harbor as part of Trailhead

Seventeen high school students are taking part in the first session of Westmont’s unique program Trailhead: Seeking God’s Call, which allows students to explore how faith can guide their future as they seek to make a difference in the world.

“For young people today, that space is harder and harder to find; the pressures of college and career preparation crowd out opportunities to explore their gifts and how they can join in God’s work,” says Chris Hoeckley, director of Trailhead and the Gaede Institute for the Liberal Arts. “The race feels so urgent, students feel they can’t pause to consider where it leads.”

Dr. Helen Rhee, Westmont professor of religious studies, is part of this year's Trailhead teaching team

Dr. Helen Rhee, Westmont professor of religious studies, is part of this year’s Trailhead teaching team

The students join Westmont faculty, local ministry and nonprofit leaders to experience how their academic pursuits, talents, passions, and concerns for the problems of the world can come together in a life of real significance. The on-campus summer residency, which includes a yearlong mentorship program, runs in three different sessions, June 14-June 21, June 22-June 29, and June 30-July 7.

Hoeckley was recently in Temecula and met an alumna of the program and her mother. “The mother was beside herself at the change in her daughter’s life—and not a mountain-top change, a change that has stuck,” he says.

“For the daughter, it was the first time she was with other young people who wanted to be real with each other about real things. Somehow an ethos emerged of depth, authenticity, and vulnerability that this young woman had craved—maybe without knowing it.”

In 2015, Westmont received a grant of $590,400 to establish Trailhead as part of Lilly Endowment Inc.’s High School Youth Theology Institutes initiative.

For more information, please visit westmont.edu/trailhead or email trailhead@westmont.edu. Here is a video about Trailhead: https://youtu.be/6cjrsttoV-M