Eight-month program after high school
Act Five students live in community together, do coursework and mission trips, and are mentored in their faith journey. PHOTO: ACT FIVE
A gap year program in Hamilton, Ont., that describes itself as "faithfully improvising life together" recently became an independent charity. Act Five had been operating under the wing of Redeemer University since 2019 (ActFive.ca).
Jon Berends, executive director, designed the program in 2018 to facilitate character growth and pathway direction for young adults after high school – in community.
"What made Act Five distinct from the beginning was this sense of wanting to establish a community and a presence within a neighbourhood where students could learn to engage with what the Christian life looks like lived through our ordinary days, showing how we are a neighbour, how we have a home together, how we live in community, making meals, sharing meals, practising hospitality and starting our days with morning prayer.
[Act Five] facilitates this whole person growth in them, in … character, resilience, direction, but also … their faith.
"We didn’t want to be another program that just gave away cool opportunities," Berends explains.
Living together in a historic downtown residence, Act Five students embark on an eight-month program that includes a nine-day canoe trip through the Temagami region of Northern Ontario, winter camping, a back-packing trip on the Appalachian Trail, a mission trip to either South Texas or El Salvador, and an eight-week field placement. Four courses are covered throughout the program, including an Indigenous learning course.
So far about a dozen students have taken the program each year. Students can apply for financial aid and fundraise in their home community to help cover the $8,800 tuition cost.
Berends says the program is designed to fill the voids that exist in today’s younger generation. Particularly after the Covid-19 pandemic, he has noticed a lack of readiness to move forward, a rising mental health crisis, loneliness and young adults leaving the Church.
"Many are wandering with no driving sense of who they are and what’s behind them. Resilience in young people is way down. The gift of a program like this, with its vision, intention and structure, is that they’re within a community where they learn to do life together with rich mentorship.
"It really answers all of those questions and facilitates this whole person growth in them, in terms of character, resilience, direction, but also in terms of their faith as they transition out of their homes." –JULIE FITZ-GERALD