How We’re Helping Graduating High School Seniors Thrive Next Year

Inside Leadership

How We’re Helping Graduating High School Seniors Thrive Next Year

Group of smiling students posing together at a Shabbat dinner table

It was the summer of 2012 and I was excited, nervous, and anxious all at the same time. In just a few short weeks, I would officially begin my time at the University of Kansas.

Although it was the perfect school for me, I didn’t fully know what to expect – and just like the thousands of high school seniors graduating this school year, I still had so many questions about the year to come: Would I be able to make new friends? What did I want to do with my life after college? What was my connection to Jewish community going to look like?

Looking back on it now, it’s incredible to think that I started school with so much anxiety because by the time I graduated, I’d had some of the most special experiences of my life, especially within the Jewish community. Between holding leadership positions at Kansas Hillel, spending summers on staff at the URJ Kutz Camp, staffing weekend NFTY events, attending two URJ Biennials, and taking two trips to Israel, my connection to Reform Judaism grew exponentially in college.

I’m so grateful for all of these experiences, yet I knew I was one of the lucky ones. While I quickly found my Jewish community, many of my friends at other universities didn’t have access to the same opportunities – and many of them checked out of Jewish life on campus for four years. Today, those challenges still exist, with too many Reform students struggling to find themselves Jewishly connected while in college.

During the coming weeks, thousands of Reform Jewish high school students will graduate high school, celebrating their accomplishments with family and friends and readying themselves for the next big step in their lives. Whether they’re preparing for college, starting new jobs, or taking a gap year, this spring marks a time of enormous excitement and uncertainty for our students.

It’s an opportunity for all of us – the entire Reform Movement – to support these students in their exciting new adventure next year.

One way to support graduating high school seniors is to have them complete the URJ College Class of 2019 Form, which will ensure that they receive updates from the URJ about exciting new programs, opportunities, and resources to stay connected to Reform Jewish life.

By completing this form, students will gain access to a whole host of ways to find Jewish community on their campus and to stay connected to Reform Judaism. Some of the opportunities available to them include:

A year ago, I began my role as the URJ’s first full-time college engagement staff person in a decade. As I’ve spent time with Reform students on campus this year, I’ve heard about their experiences graduating from high school and starting their new adventure. Time and time again, they tell me that finding a welcoming, fun, and meaningful Jewish community is one of the most important parts of succeeding during this transition period.

As we begin to say goodbye to our graduating seniors, let’s also provide them with the support, resources, and connections to thrive next year.

To make sure the high school senior in your life is connected next year, have them complete the URJ College Class of 2019 Form. Interested in learning more about the URJ’s college engagement work? Email college@urj.org for more information.

Have something to say about this post? Join the conversation in The Tent, the communications and collaboration platform for congregational leaders of the Reform Movement. You can also tweet us or tell us how you feel on Facebook.

Evan Traylor, originally from Oklahoma City, serves as the associate director for college engagement at the Union for Reform Judaism, after spending two years as the inaugural URJ presidential fellow for millennial engagement. Evan graduated from the University of Kansas studying political science, Jewish studies, and leadership studies. He is a past NFTY president, Kansas Hillel intern, student member of the Hillel International Board of Directors, and co-founder of the Hillel International Student Cabinet.

Evan Traylor
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