Students Rejoice in Serving Youth, Teaching Gospel at EFY

In Buena Vista, Va., a town of fewer than 7,000 residents, the biggest pizza orders of the year come on Wednesday nights, for five weeks in a row, when hundreds of youth are on the campus of Southern Virginia University for a fun-filled and faith-affirming week of Especially for Youth.

As of next Saturday, more than 1,500 participants will have attended EFY here this summer. No single local restaurant can handle the orders, which can total more than 200 pizzas for the traditional late-night pizza party, so EFY counselors also arrange for pizzas to be brought in from a neighboring town to meet the demand.

Especially for Youth is a week-long summer program for 14- to 18-year-olds centered on the principles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Young adults, including Southern Virginia students, serve as counselors, spending much of their time teaching youth gospel lessons and leading them in wholesome activities, including one of their favorites — pizza night.

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Jessie Carter

Jessie Carter, a senior music and biology major from Charlottesville, Va., said that her favorite thing about being an EFY counselor this year is observing the changes in the lives of the youth.

“I’ve seen young men who did not know if they wanted to go on a mission dedicate themselves to serving a mission,” said Carter. “I’ve seen a particular girl recognize over the course of the week that she really felt both her Heavenly Father and her Savior’s love for her. She came from hard circumstances and felt like she was alone and thought that she would never have a good father figure. But then she realized that Heavenly Father is her father and that he loves her more than anything. That was one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had.”

The counselors also appreciate the many opportunities they have at EFY to develop their capacities to lead and serve others.

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“I’ve learned to just forget myself and lose myself in the service of others,” said Sariah Rodriguez, a junior from Buena Vista, Va. “I’ve come to see how true it is that we can be the most happy in life when we serve. It has been faith building to experience the Lord guiding me and stretching me in my teaching opportunities and it has been humbling to hear the youth’s comments and understand how strong they already are at such a young age.”

Dax Farnsworth, a senior Spanish and liberal arts major from San Antonio, Texas, said that he became an EFY counselor last year because of the encouragement of a fellow Southern Virginia student.

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Dax Farnsworth

“I had a blast and wanted to do it again,” Farnsworth said. “My experience last year helped me learn to love everybody.”

Now in his second year at EFY, he is a building counselor responsible to prepare and oversee the major activities and gatherings including game nights, service projects, dances and testimony meetings. As a building counselor, he also helps train the other counselors.

“This year, helping with the planning and logistics of it all is beneficial preparation for what I want to do as a career,” he said. “I want to be part of humanitarian aid and respond to natural disasters.”

Farnsworth said that the opportunity to serve is his favorite part of EFY, and that the service experiences Southern Virginia students can have as counselors help them understand the value that the university places on service.

“EFY is six-days-a-week, 24-hours-a-day of serving others,” Farnsworth said. “Getting it drilled into your head to constantly be serving fulfills Southern Virginia’s mission to prepare leader-servants.”