One of my favorite quotes comes from American novelist Kurt Vonnegut:
“What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.”
Community is a core pillar of Unbound because it’s so important for human life. Without it, we ignore our true purpose: serving and loving others.
In last week’s blog post, we explored project-based education. We saw how students are entering their post-college lives without the real skills they need to lead impactful lives. Building community is among those skills. That’s why Ascend is built very intentionally on community.
The Ascend Teams were designed with the understanding that effective project-based learning doesn’t happen in solitary confinement. All successful projects that have been brought into the world, throughout all of history, have been collaborations. Ascend Teams provide students with an opportunity to encourage, support, and coach each other as they work on their projects.
Furthermore, building community in college prepares students for real life. Students heading into life will certainly need hard skills and practical experience. The project-based education model takes care of that. But students will also need to learn many soft skills, including relational ones. Learning to build and maintain a healthy community will serve students long past graduation.
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Ascend students learn a lot about community from the Ascend Teams. These groups of 7-10 students learn peer-coaching, leadership, and collaboration as they do real projects. But that’s not all.
Unbound has a vibrant community beyond the Ascend Teams. In the last year or so, online connection has become a part of everyday life. Thanks to the location flexibility of the program, Unbound students have already become masters at the art of long-distance community using digital tools.
Unbound’s live events and online community have always worked in tandem. They feed off of each other. Students may meet in person and deepen friendships through online channels or vice-versa.
As the last year has demonstrated, this is the way we do relationships and community now. Unbound students are not only doing real projects, they’re learning to build real-life communities.
Community for Impactful Living
The whole point of project-based education is to adequately prepare students for impactful lives in the real world. The skills they develop through the project-based framework will be used in future careers, ministries, and volunteering. They will also learn relational skills that will equip them for their future families, neighborhoods, churches, and communities.
Ascend is a true project-based learning program. That includes community. What better way to learn how to build community and real relationships than by doing it? There will be failures, as with any learning experience. The important thing is the ability to learn from experience and apply those lessons in the future.
Jace Bower is the Marketing Coordinator for Unbound. An Unbound alumnus, he has experienced firsthand the powerful advantages of doing college differently and participating in an intentional community. Jace graduated with his bachelor’s degree in History in 2016 and has worked in restaurant management and marketing since then. He also served on the Unbound Student Cabinet in 2019.
The author of two books and a semi-regular blogger, Jace can often be found doing something with words. When he’s not, chances are he’s reading about theology, listening to music, or playing pool or tennis with his wife Shannon in their Virginia home.