Already homesick in her first days at the University of North Dakota, Kayla Olson walked into her first undergraduate lecture, wondering how she would be able to do this every day for the next four years.
Kayla, who arrived at UND in the fall of 2015, remembers, “When you’re a freshman, all you really want is to have friends and people who actually care about you.” Kayla had just left her family and parish community in Bismarck, and it felt natural for her to seek out a Catholic community to combat the loneliness so many college students feel in their first months away from home.
The first time Kayla came to the Newman Center was the Monday of Welcome Week, where she met a fellow student named Anna Yurick. Anna soon invited Kayla into her Bible study, and later, into discipleship where Anna mentored her as she began leading her own Bible study.
Now a senior at UND, Kayla is still leading one of the 40+ Bible studies that happen weekly on campus. Her study serves a unique demographic: the women of her sorority, Alpha Chi Omega. Kayla’s love and hope for her community is apparent as she speaks of the necessity of forming deep and vulnerable relationships with her sisters that are rooted in something even deeper than the Greek letters they share - a pursuit of holiness through Christian discipleship. “We are up against a party culture where darkness can exist, but Greek organizations are founded on values that are rooted in the Christian life: authentic friendship, loyalty, service, and stewardship.”
This fall, Kayla stepped into yet another leadership position on campus, with the Newman Center’s Student Board. Kayla is one of four Social Chairs tasked with planning a variety of events that build up the existing community of Catholic students on campus while making it easy for students to get involved and invite others. “When you’re a freshman, all you really want is to have friends and people who actually care about you.”
Kayla is most excited about hosting events that bring people together and give students an opportunity to connect with each other and have fun in a positive, uplifting space. “You can go to other places and clubs on campus to make friends, but the friends you find striving for virtue and seeking a relationship with Christ at the Newman Center is something you won’t find anywhere else.”
As she applies for medical school, Kayla has become more aware of the way the Newman Center has influenced her beyond her time as a student. She thinks back to a recent FOCUS mission trip to Haiti, saying, “Coming into my faith has confirmed my desire to work in the medical field, especially serving the poorest of the poor in Haiti. I was serving them, and they were serving me.”
In recent years, Kayla has become inspired by the way the Church upholds the dignity of the human person, and plans to incorporate the Church’s teaching on moral & ethical issues into her practice out of a desire to see that view transform the culture.
Between Student Board, Alpha Chi Omega, and applying for medical school, Kayla has found balance in integrating her Catholic faith with the rest of her commitments through the attendance of daily Mass and a weekly Holy Hour. If you need her, she’ll be around campus, helping us ignite the fire of faith.
Would you consider investing in more students like Kayla on a day where your impact is doubled?