Youth group volunteers in Vail |

Youth group volunteers in Vail

Ruth Moon
Vail CO, Colorado
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Special to the Daily |

VAIL, Colorado ” Putting 41 college students in Vail condominiums for a summer could sound like a recipe for disaster.

With Vail’s reputation as a party destination for college students and recent graduates, you might expect no different from a group of Campus Crusade for Christ students. But for these students, scattering to their homes across the country this week, the summer seemed to produce different results.

The students are part of a Campus Crusade summer project in Vail. Students are selected to work in different parts of the country for the summer and trained in knowledge of the Bible, communication skills and personal faith for several weeks.

For the second half of the summer, the project directors pull out, leaving the students to develop leadership and evangelism skills by interacting with each other and residents of the area. Vail participants had to raise around $3,000 each to cover travel and housing costs for the summer.

Brittany Finkelstein, a junior at the University of Florida, worked at the Red Lion this summer with two other students. She decided to come to Vail after a friend told her about the trip last summer.

“It seemed like an awesome experience,” she said. “Coming from Florida to live in the mountains is a different lifestyle. … People here seem a lot more laid-back and really into the outdoors, which is awesome.”

Almost 3,500 students and staff participated in similar projects around the world this summer, according to the group’s Web site. The summer project is a branch of Campus Crusade for Christ, a nondenominational Christian ministry that teaches students on college campuses about the Bible and the Christian faith.

After the students got to Vail May 30, they were left on their own to find jobs and transportation for the summer. The students ended up at a variety of jobs in the valley, including the Vail Park and Recreation District, Columbine Bakery, Home Depot and the Red Lion in Vail Village.

A typical week shows that the students’ summers were a little removed from the Vail party scene. Every night of the week is taken up with an activity, alternating between group Bible studies and working on community projects.

Area residents were invited to dinner with students at The Vail Church every Thursday night, and the students hosted a soccer game in Ford Park every Tuesday night, Finkelstein said.

One project the students finished this summer was a mosaic wall for the parking garage at Simba Run Condominiums, where they have been staying.

The mural, a painting of the four seasons in the mountains made from mosaic tile and paint, fills the wall just inside the gate of the garage. It was a summer camp-type exercise where the students wrote words on the tiles representing habits or attitudes they want to get rid of, then broke the tiles in pieces and glued them to the wall.

But the summer wasn’t all work for the college students, and many had time for weekend activities like camping, hiking and whitewater rafting.

University of Louisville junior Tyler Belcher said he signed up for the project because his sister and friends recommended it, and he enjoyed the summer enough to do a project again.

“I’ve never been hiking in the mountains, so I know I’ll remember that forever,” he said. “Mountain weather is crazy ” I’m from Kentucky, where if you have a storm it rains for three days.”

Jeremy Clarke, a senior at Kennesaw State University in Georgia, had such a good experience this summer that he wants to become a Campus Crusade staff member at Colorado State University when he graduates.

“Being here has changed my perspective a little bit,” he said. “The people are really welcoming and I really love the mountains.”

Kevin Sullivan, manager of the Red Lion, said he doesn’t know the first thing about Campus Crusade ministries, but based on his experience with student employees he would hire them again based just on the name. Campus Crusade student workers have been reliable, hard workers for the last two summers.

Sullivan said one of his concerns was that the students would proselytize on the job, but that worry hasn’t panned out.

“No one wants to be preached to, because it would open up a whole can of worms,” he said. “That’s the one thing you worry about with religious groups ” or what seem to be religious groups ” is that they would preach. None of that was the case with these kids.

“You wouldn’t know if they were Jewish, Muslim or Hindu ” you wouldn’t know; good kids, is how I would categorize them.”

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