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Alter Upper Room

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Through Upper Room, students at Alter High School in Kettering found a way to incorporate their faith into the education schedule. Led by students, the faith group meets every Wednesday morning at 7:30 a.m. before school starts. The five current leaders are: seniors Andrew McKenna, Ben Burkhardt, Grace Girman and Monica Jasek and junior Amelia Hess.

Originally launched in 2014, with help from a former Alter High School teacher, the idea was inspired by summer youth conferences at Franciscan University in Steubenville.

“It’s a club, where we have worship, prayer and faith- sharing,” said Burkhard. “It’s [for] anyone who is desiring to grow closer to God and find that Catholic or Christian community within Alter.”

Typically lasting 30 minutes, the Upper Room is held in the school’s chapel. Each week, leaders take turns leading the meetings, and they all lead when attendees split into smaller groups.

The weekly topic “corresponds with either something we’re going through or something that is [going on] during that week,” said Hess. “For example, Lent—we just did one on that. We make either a slideshow presentation or play games. It’s kind of like a Bible study type vibe, but it’s more so that students can connect to [other] students in their faith.”

Leaders group chat and sometimes meet for breakfast to prepare for the Upper Room meetings. They or an Alter teacher email the week’s plan and reminders on Tuesday nights for the following morning’s meeting.

“The meetings of Upper Room can look like anything from small groups where students can find friends that they share the faith with and feel comfortable to be vulnerable with, to worshiping—our teacher will play the guitar and we all sing—to a student or teacher giving a testimony [or] talk [on] the theme of the month,” said Girman. “It’s kind of just like a morning hang out.”

Around 20 students typically attend every week; however, all students are welcome at any meeting and not obligated to a weekly attendance.

“It doesn’t matter what grade level you are; even though the majority of the leaders are seniors, we still have a lot of freshman [who attend],” said Burkhardt. “We just want to make sure that everyone is welcome and that they know the Catholic community is open to everyone.”

Currently, Upper Room is listening to teacher testimonies. “Every week, a teacher that the students are really close with will come and give their testimonies,” Girman said. “Throughout the weeks [the topic] has been transitioning. At the beginning, a teacher might talk about what faith is to them or how they pray. The next week it could be overcoming obstacles of faith. It kind of all strings together, but it depends on what the teacher wants to focus on.”

Each year, Upper Room has four senior leaders and one junior leader, who will continue leading the year after the seniors graduate.

“I can help lead because I know the gist of everything,” said Hess. “I lead just as much as they do now.”

Planning more activities, the Upper Room leaders most recently considered holding Exposition and prayer after school on Fridays to help students wind down at the week’s end.

This article appeared in the May 2023 edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.

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