For the past two years, we’ve had the privilege of overseeing a talented group of Apprentices as they navigate their transition to life and leadership as young adults. They came to us from various parts of the city, with diverse backgrounds and interests, but they all had one thing in common: a desire to develop their God-given potential as urban Christian leaders.
“Graduation is always a time of mixed emotions at Issachar,” said Issachar program director, Scott Lundeen. “Apprentices have lived together for the past two years and have walked alongside each other through some of the most formative experiences of their lives. Together we have formed life-long memories and friendships, and at graduation those stories come together in gratitude, sentiment and excitement.”
Prepared for Leadership
Graduation is a commissioning of our students as the go and also a commencement of the hard work, tribulation and triumph that occurred during the program . Together, Apprentices have done over 2,900 hours of service and leadership in the community and participated in 4,000 hours of training.
It’s all part of the Issachar experience, designed to develop leaders who, like the tribe of Issachar, “understand the times and know what God’s people should do.” (I Chr. 12:32)
Specifically, we have worked to:
- Invest in Education: We assisted students with an average of $4,500/year toward their tuition, and our Student Success Coordinator, Fabian Armenta, met weekly with students to provide academic support. The collective GPA of our students rose from 2.6 in their first semester to 3.1 in their third. They also received professional training in skills and tools including money management, Strengthsfinder assessments, resumes, and mock interviews.
- Integrate faith and identity: Students completed a spiritual autobiography; took personality, career and spiritual gifts assessments completed an investigative Bible study on 1 John and studies on Who is God, Identity and the Cost of Discipleship. Students spent time learning who God is and how to authentically integrate His identity into their own stories to find their true identities,
- Intersect issues of our day: During our Tuesday community evening sessions, students addressed big topics such as mass incarceration, immigration, fatherlessness, the Me Too movement and many other issues, combining “the Bible and the newspaper” to develop informed opinions and skills as peacemakers.
- Immerse ourselves in community: “Sticky Faith” research recommends a 5:1 ratio for the faith development of young people – 5 adults investing in 1 student. In addition to the growth that happens by living with peers, Issachar Apprentices each had someone investing in them as a mentor, financial mentor, academic coach, supervisor and trainer.
- Impact the world: Apprentices volunteered at organizations such as Young Life, Ronald McDonald House, Action Youth, Justice and Mercy Legal Aid Clinic, Padres Unidos, and other organizations to mentor high school kids, support legal aid work, serve disabled and sick individuals and families, practice restorative justice in schools, and serve our city in countless ways. After studying Isaiah 6, students have each become more aware of their needs and calling, developing a presentation about a particular community they feel sent to serve.
Prepared for Life
Apprenticeship director Sandy Lee acknowledges that the Issachar experience is bigger than any of us:
“God shows me that He is the Lead Shepherd of each of the apprentices and the apprentices as a group. It is His timing and His purpose and plan that is priority, not mine. I am to follow His lead in how to guide His children, and that is success.….”
Sandy reflects on some of the big skills and takeaways for students:
- Apprentices learn how to talk to God in a more real and authentic way: They learn how to ask God and themselves the hard questions about their own story. They learn how to invite God to be integrated in all parts of their lives (holistically).
- Apprentices learn what is important in working and navigating the professional world: Apprentices learn about networking, professional resumes, interview skills, conflict management, emotional intelligence training, and strategies and tactics for handling passionate conversations.
- Apprentices learn to understand themselves: They learn how to apply assessments of their strengths, saboteurs and personality traits to refine their career and calling. Apprentices are equipped with the ability and skills to assess all parts of their lives in an honest and authentic way that can release their potential and build confidence. This sets them up to be successful in their walk with God, in their calling and in their career. They are equipped to understand who they are at their core, and how they can impact the world.
Prepared for Academic Success
A final and very tangible area of growth for students is academics. Issachar’s Academic Success Coordinator, Fabian Armenta, has been with Apprentices for the whole journey:
“The transition to college is like learning how to ride a bike. At first, it’s scary, uncertain and involves a lot of little falls and crashes. But the students eventually realize that success or failure is 100% up to them. It isn’t easy, but the rewards of hard work are authentically worth every bit.“
The biggest hurdles we see students overcome are:
- Unwillingness to ask for help: Many of the apprentices are used to figuring it out on their own. At Issachar, with access to so many mentors and leaders, students learn to ask for help and the true meaning behind “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22)
- Lack of vision and seeing success coming from hard work: Students learn that there is a direct correlation between the effort they put in long hours of reading, research, typing, projects and presentations – and the rewards that follow, such as grant and scholarship awards, internship opportunities and their best grades ever!
- Lack of Confidence: By the time they leave the program, they are no longer waiting on their goals to simply happen; but rather they are working with enthusiasm toward setting and achieving their goals.
Fabian has this advice for students as they continue their journey:
“Remember, God doesn’t get a number. If you say He’s #1, that means it’s possible he can become #5 eventually. He doesn’t get a number. God is central. In all we do from research, to studying, to presenting, God is central. In our report cards, may God be central. In our wobble weeks and final stretch, may God be central. In our days where we want to drop out and call it quits, may God be central. Practice this now because we’ll face this again in future jobs and relationships. Don’t give God a number. Make God central in all we say, do, and touch.”
There is a buzz in the air as students wind down their final semester at Issachar. Many of them are making arrangements for the second half of college – including funding, living arrangements, internships, etc.
“We are sad to see this group of students go, but we know that the support they’ve received over the past two years will take them to places they couldn’t have gone on their own,” said Lundeen. “Our alumni say the Issachar experience is like 10 years of growth in two.”
We are so grateful for our community of volunteers, donors, and mentors who have walked with our students over these two years and had a hand in setting our students up to succeed. In the end, that network and support will nurture them for a lifetime of transformational impact in our city and beyond.
You are invited to attend this wonderful ceremony and celebration.
For more information visit: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/issachar-apprentice-graduation-tickets-44921370027