Sept. 24, 2012
By Darla Martin Tucker
RIVERSIDE, Calif. For Carolina Bledsoe, saying goodbye to her only son as he begins pre-med studies at La Sierra University was difficult. But the concern expressed by university faculty and leaders during a program for freshmen parents eased her mind.
“I really liked the service tonight,” she said following the annual Blessings service at La Sierra University Church on Sept. 20. “It’s really nice that they do that for the parents.” She and her husband, Van, attended the event which capped a day of whirlwind activities called IGNITE introducing freshmen to La Sierra. The meals, games, giveaways and other events included an afternoon of community service work at more than 20 nonprofit organizations around Riverside.
The Bledsoe’s son, Marino, began classes Sept. 24 along hundreds of other freshmen. The couple is grateful their son is attending school within driving distance of their Chandler, Ariz. home. “I feel like we’re not really losing him,” Carolina Bledsoe said.
The Blessings service, which became a part of annual IGNITE activities in 2010, provides parents and freshmen a venue in which they can formally say goodbye in an atmosphere of prayers, song and assurances from faculty and university leaders.
Religious Studies major Chris Kaatz started this year’s service with tongue-in-cheek advice for parents and freshmen. He admonished parents to refrain from embarrassing their college freshmen children by calling them at their dorm facility. Alternatively, “kids, call your parents,” he said. Kaatz advised new students to behave like adults and get jobs, and asked parents to give to their children while remembering to let their children “be themselves.” To the fledgling college students Kaatz stated, “College is going to be an amazing time for you. Make your parents proud.”
Sam McBride, professor of English, delivered a talk on students’ growth potential and parents’ hopes. “La Sierra teachers love to mold students into thinkers who can analyze and synthesize the ideas of others,” he said. However the crux of the problem is, “you can’t make students change, you can only let them.”
“As your child adjusts to this new-found freedom, your child will make mistakes,” McBride continued. “You want your son to be responsible, place responsibility in his own hands. …Trust them in God’s hands.”
La Sierra University Church Senior Pastor Chris Oberg and her daughter, Amanda Oberg, La Sierra 2011 business graduate, provided a humorous and touching skit that relayed the mirrored thoughts, hopes and concerns of a mother and daughter as the daughter leaves for college. Oberg then addressed the audience of freshmen students.
“From here on out you will not do this journey alone,” Oberg said. “We invite you to a whole new family, the
La Sierra University Church family.” She recounted the story of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and the safety afforded the main character Esmeralda after Quasimodo whisked her into a cathedral. “Inside sanctuary is where we find safety from the cruelty of the world,” Oberg said.
Family members and friends entering the church were provided packets of California poppy seeds. The symbolic gesture represented the new students and the journey of growth on which they are embarking.
Vice President of Student Life Yami Bazan asked the parents and family members to either plant the seeds or place the seed packets where they could be seen as a reminder to pray for the freshmen and for the faculty and administrators who will guide them. “We today commit to giving ourselves to your children and ask you to commit to praying on our behalf,” Bazan said.
Riverside residents Patricia and Frank Lopez said goodbye to their daughter, Lynn Lopez who will study business and pre-dentistry at La Sierra. The couple’s older son, Moses, is a junior history and pre-law major at the university.
“The environment, the faculty makes us feel more secure to leave our child at this university,” Patricia Lopez said.
Lynn Lopez, a graduate of La Sierra Academy chose the university in part because of her connections to it through her high school. “Also because of my brother,” she said. “He would tell me about his classes,” and about the personal attention provided by his teachers. Moses Lopez said he was “mostly excited” to have his younger sister attending the same university with him.
Andy Cuevas and his wife, Linda, arrived at La Sierra with their freshman daughter Alexis, a graduate of Orangewood Academy. The family is from Brea and Alexis decided to attend LSU in part to be with her friends. “I’m just happy she’s here,” said Andy Cuevas. “Trust in God.
“At first I thought I was prepared mentally, but when I came here …then it started to hit me, I do have to grow up,” said Alexis. “For the most part it’s exciting.”
Click here for a slideshow of the IGNITE Blessings service: http://bit.ly/parentblessing