Cedarville female student laughing and talking with girl

Middle School Ministry Adapts to COVID-19, Looks Toward Fall

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by Brianna Coffey, Student Public Relations Writer

Cedarville female student talking to girlSeeking Truth, Accountability, Respect, and Success (STARS) is a ministry of the Miami Valley Women’s Center, located in Kettering, Huber Heights, Xenia, and North Dayton, Ohio. STARS mentors middle school girls at local schools.

Many Cedarville University students have served with STARS since it was established, but with COVID this academic year, they had to find new ways to connect with middle schoolers.

Instead of visiting schools and interacting with the young students personally this spring semester, the Cedarville team wrote letters to students and stories for a monthly newsletter, in addition to holding prayer nights as a way to mentor the students in a COVID-safe way.

In past years, the team visited Baker Middle School in Fairborn, Warner Middle School in Xenia, and Cedar Cliff Middle School in Cedarville once a week to teach female students about healthy relationships, dealing with conflict, setting boundaries, building character, body image, dating standards, social media, and setting goals for the future. They also celebrated the holidays with the middle schoolers and held an end-of-the-year party. 

The team of college students served as small-group leaders, each building relationships with 5 to 10 girls at one of the schools. They taught lessons around core truths about their value and worth and fostered a safe environment where the girls could share their experiences.  

COVID changed the normal process, so the student outreach staff at the Miami Valley Women’s Center published a monthly STARS newsletter called IALAC, which stands for “I Am Loved and Capable” that featured articles on topics normally covered in STARS groups. These were distributed to the schools typically visited by Cedarville students.  

Each issue included fun games and activities for the girls to do with their family and friends and crafts or snacks for them to make at home. Cedarville students contributed to the “College Corner,” a section of each issue that featured college students’ embarrassing middle school stories and how they dealt with those situations.  

“The students were still getting the truth even though we couldn’t be there in person,” said Stephanie Schlabach, a STARS coordinator.   

STARS leaders also hosted a night of prayer for students and school administrators. “We prayed for God to provide the students with a safe person they can talk to about whatever is going on in their life,” said Schlabach.  

They also prayed for the opportunity to return to the schools this coming fall to continue building relationships with the girls and teach them about biblical truths. “Leaders have written letters to previous STARS students to encourage and remind them that they are treasures and deserve to be loved, respected, and protected,” said Schlabach.  

“When I was in middle school, I had a few college girls that poured into me. I looked up to them so much and they had such a big impact on my life,” said Carly Cinberg, a senior social work major who got involved with S.T.A.R.S. during the fall semester of her freshman year. “I love the opportunity that we have to make an impact on the sixth-graders, even remotely this year with COVID-19, when so much is changing in their lives!”

Located in southwest Ohio, Cedarville University is an accredited, Christ-centered, Baptist institution with an enrollment of 4,550 undergraduate, graduate, and online students in more than 150 areas of study. Founded in 1887, Cedarville is one of the largest private universities in Ohio, recognized nationally for its authentic Christian community, rigorous academic programs, including its Bachelor of Science in Social Work program, strong graduation and retention rates, accredited professional and health science offerings, and high student engagement ranking. For more information about the University, visit cedarville.edu.