Liz Tingquist, diocesan director of youth and campus ministry, said when Catholic Charities Summer Institute (C2SI, pronounced “C-squared-S-I”) in Little Rock started in 2007, “the very first year we weren’t sure” it was going to be an annual tradition. She credited St. Edward Church in Texarkana for bringing 18 of the 20 youth that first year.
This year about 80 ninth through 12th-grade students from 23 parishes throughout the state were represented.
Attendees volunteered at Arkansas Foodbank, Jericho Way and some new locations, like Ferncliff Disaster Relief Warehouse, Little Rock Compassion Center, an inner-city mission for the homeless, and returned to the Arkansas Pregnancy Resource Center after several years, Tingquist said.
Cassie Farmer, 16, a parishioner of St. Peter the Fisherman Church in Mountain Home, attended C2SI for the first time.
“The first day we went to Jericho, which is a place for the homeless people. I really enjoyed talking to them and they enjoyed talking to us, and helping them,” she said.
The teens were personally touched by experiences with the homeless, including Jojo Vazquez, 18, a parishioner at St. John Church in Hot Springs.
“He just told me how he was homeless because he felt like a burden to his family because he was disabled. He had fallen and broken his ACL so he was just talking to me about how not everyone who is homeless is into drugs or going through something like a crime,” Vazquez said. “It was just really eye-opening and I felt like it was an encounter with Christ and I loved it.”
Tracy Eichenberger, disaster preparedness and response coordinator for Catholic Charities of Arkansas, hosted a disaster simulation, giving the youth a glimpse at how much life changes in the blink of an eye when nature strikes.
“Every year we figure kids see in the news some sort of hurricane or tornados come through Arkansas, house fires … the kids see it, but we’ve never really focused on it,” Tingquist said.
Laurel Dhority, 17, a parishioner at St. Paul Church in Pocahontas, has attended C2SI several times. Attending this year was special after witnessing what local outreach services can do for people after her city suffered severe flooding in May, she said.
“C-squared is really important to me just because of the service we get to give those that are living on the outskirts of society. Doing things like this even though you don’t see those people, you still know they’re helping,” she said after loading boxes of food at the Arkansas Foodbank in Little Rock. “It’s really important to me because a lot of people in my community recently have been affected by natural disasters and things like that so it’s really great to do stuff like this here and be able to take it back home.”
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