“Just As You Are” week, or JAYA, is set apart for freshman girls to recognize who they are as a daughter of God. Laguna residents are challenged daily with new goals, intended on guiding girls to reduce distractions and identify stronger with Christ. Each night, floors gather in their respective lounge, sharing how the day affected them.
JAYA began with a sunrise service at 6 a.m. Monday. With worship led by Debrianna Cabitac, the chapel consisted mainly of the Resident Assistant (RA) of each floor talking about an aspect of themselves that made them doubt their self worth. Each shared the hope that this week might be one where the freshmen could find their self worth in Christ. These four days would strip away distractions and give an opportunity to be still before God.
Each day held a new challenge for the girls to meet. Monday was “Reflect and Remove Your Mask,” asking for a day with no makeup. This brought attention to why one wears makeup and how going without it affects the day. “Be the Gift of Yourself,” Tuesday’s task, asked girls to stay off social media for the day. This was to help identify why there is such a pull towards social media. Wednesday’s “Be the Beloved” allowed freshmen to write notes of encouragement on papers outside the doors of their floormates. The week closed with “Be Still,” a call to stop playing music for a day in order to find if and why there is an issue with silence.
At 9:30 p.m. Thursday, the residents of Laguna Hall met once more in Needham Chapel to conclude the week’s events. Each floor sent a representative to share how the challenges had affected them and their overall emotions concerning JAYA. There were multiple testimonies of growth and one girl shared that she had accepted Christ because of it. Second floor RA Momo Saldana motivated the room with a message about community and growth together and challenging everyone to continue the habits they formed throughout the week. While the rest stayed and worshiped together, floors went out one by one to burn paper masks they had created throughout the week, which represented their struggles and emotions each day.
At the floor meetings each night, girls would share how the challenge that day changed them, or what it revealed to them. This exercise built a sense of community on each floor, and it allowed girls to be honest about their struggles. Varying activities gave opportunities for girls to be still before God, open up with one another, and place their insecurities in a tangible place, then destroy them.
Overall, the week left different marks throughout campus. For freshman girls who took part in the event, there were various expectations and results. “I assumed a lot of people wouldn’t do it. I was surprised how many people got involved,” Rachel Suganuma, 5th floor, shared, “I feel like it was a really good bonding experience for our floor.” Kayla Stenzel, a 3rd floor resident, had a different approach. “I was really excited to do it, because I knew all the freshman would be doing it,” she said, “I was anticipating; I was really excited. Now it scares me a lot for it to be over. I didn’t realize how hard it was going to be. It was incredibly difficult but there’s so much freedom.” For RA Julia Pohls, there was a new light brought to the event: “As a freshman I didn’t really feel the pull to do it. It wasn’t really a big deal my freshman year. Coming in as an RA I realized the impact I could have if I was serious about it,” she began. Because this year’s JAYA was more about finding identity and self worth in Christ in addition to accepting one’s beauty, she adds “the challenges were to unveil the masks we use to hide ourselves. So we could recognize the different things we hide behind and sacrifice them to God.”
Even boys became aware of the event and the impact it was having. Tyler Thoreson, a sophomore and resident of Huntington Hall, shared “last year I didn’t know about JAYA until the second day it was happening.” He added that this year he was aware of its arrival and afterwards that “it’s for a good message” and “good attitude and self esteem” came as a result. Fifth floor RA Topher Skinner noted that in the past JAYA “wasn’t as strong as it is this year,” but now “it definitely had a new sense of purpose and momentum.”
The week changed many girls and boys in a lot of ways. The freshman girls were able to step out of the social arena they participate in daily to focus on God and what He is telling them each day. In the end, it impacted more than just Laguna Hall; it affected many people in the Vanguard community.