April 24, 2012
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BY BILLY LIGGETT
April Viverette said she was called to Campbell University Divinity School because God wanted her to minister to young people.
She thought “young” would mean children or pre-teens, but after a little over a semester as a residence hall chaplain, the third-year grad student from Rocky Mount has found working with college students to be rewarding.
“I didn’t expect to like this program as much as I do,” Viverette said. “But working with college freshmen has opened my eyes … maybe this is another outlet for me in ministry.”
“This program” is a partnership between the Divinity School and Campus Ministry that places student chaplains in the residence halls to serve as both ministers and counselors. Currently, four students — Viverette, Charles Fiore, Daniel Fairchild and Amy Adams — are working throughout the University’s 13 halls.
According to Divinity School dean Dr. Andrew Wakefield, the idea is a win-win for Campbell, as it provides the grad students with real-life experience, but also provides students with someone who can listen and offer advice and spiritual guidance.
“We as a school have always been blessed by being part of a comprehensive university, with a wide range of resources for our students,” Wakefield said. “Now we get the even greater blessing of giving back to the university, of building stronger ties with students across this campus, of having more opportunities to be the presence of Christ within the Campbell community.”
Viverette, who is working toward her master’s degree, covers Hedgpeth, Strickland and Bryan halls, meaning she is the go-to chaplain for just under 300 students. In her role, Viverette — who has an office in one of the residence halls — regularly visits the girls and engages in everyday conversation, plans Bible studies and group lunches and keeps an open door to her office for students who want longer one-on-one discussions.
She said the topics of those talks range from problems with a roommate, homesickness to struggling with what major to choose.
And while her position is faith-based in nature, Viverette said not all discussions involve faith or prayer.
“I have a lot of students who don’t have a particular faith tradition or who just don’t want to talk about it, so I usually ask them first how faith has played into their issue,” Viverette said. “Sometimes, that spawns a lot of conversation, and sometimes, they want to avoid it. I don’t just jump in immediately and say, ‘Are you praying?’ because I know that’s not for everybody.”
So far, the program seems to be a success, Viverette said.
“We’ve asked students to take surveys, and the response has been very positive,” she said. “I think this is something they need. A lot of freshmen don’t know where to go for counselors or just people they can talk to. If they know they have someone in their dorms who’s ready to listen … then that’s big.”