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Release date: Feb. 2, 2001
Contact: Elaine Justice, Assistant Director, 404-727-0643, or ejustic@emory.edu

Candler To Conduct Long-Term Study Of Youth In Its Summer Academy

Emory University’s Candler School of Theology has received a $160,000 grant from the Lilly Endowment to fund a study of the long-term impact of its Youth Theology Institute (YTI), an ecumenical summer academy for rising high school seniors that is designed to help young people fall in love with theology as a lifelong pursuit.

"Our goal has been to create a cadre of public theologians for the church and society," says Mark Winstanley, director of YTI, now entering its ninth year at Candler. Candler’s YTI, which was originally founded with a grant from Lilly in 1993, has inspired at least two dozen theological study programs for teens at universities and seminaries across the United States and Canada.

"With this research grant, we’ll be able to discover whether our work with youth has ignited their vocational imagination, leading them to contribute towards common good," says Winstanley. "Anecdotal evidence suggests that YTI has had a lasting impact on its participants. Some of our alumni are working on justice and peace initiatives throughout the U.S. and abroad." While YTI staffers and researchers have collected information on participating youth since the program’s inception, the new research effort will be the first comprehensive looks at YTI’s effects and outcomes.

To test their hypotheses, researchers in the two-year study will review YTI’s original claims and purpose, then distribute questionnaires and hold listening sessions around the country with YTI alumni, now numbering some 520. Researchers hope to publish a book and a number of articles on their findings.

Beyond measuring the program’s outcomes, Winstanley hopes to use the findings to develop materials and strategies to train ministers working with youth, whose ranks currently are in short supply among mainline Christian denominations. "We hope to use our research to build bridges between the seminary and the local church," says Winstanley. Currently he is working on a collaborative effort to apply techniques used in YTI to help create an orientation program for new youth ministers in the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church.

What began as a four-week summer residential program for youth at Candler has now blossomed into a comprehensive Christian education initiative at the seminary. The goal, says Winstanley, is
"to reconceive the way youth are viewed within society and within the church."

"My own vision is that YTI is much more than a summer academy," says Winstanley. "Our goal is to develop a center for research and education which examines how youth think theologically. We hope to serve as a resource for theological educators, churches and those who work with youth on a variety of levels. This research project will move us closer to making that vision a reality."

Among its other projects, YTI is planning to set up an exchange between YTI alumni and South African youth.
"We are seeing some parallels between the struggles of the post-apartheid era and the early years following the civil rights movement in the U.S.," says Winstanley. "We believe a dialogue is very timely and will engage youth in the process of global reconciliation."

Candler’s YTI summer academy runs June 30 through July 28, 2001, and is open to 65 rising high school seniors from across the country. The program seeks to recruit youth from diverse racial, ethnic, socioeconomic and denominational backgrounds. It also admits youth who have no specific faith commitments and those from other religious traditions who are eager to explore religious questions and Christian theology. Cost of the program is free to the youth participants. Application deadline is Feb. 16, 2001. For more information, e-mail yti@emory.edu, or to download an application, go online to: http://www.emory.edu/CANDLER/yti.


 


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