Sitting down with STAND

How STAND is keeping their sense of community online


via Instagram

STAND members and Cal U students at Jubilee in February 2020.

Kaitlyn Collins, Staff Writer

This semester, campus involvement is looking different than it ever has. With everything being remote, students are participating in their clubs and organizations online through Zoom calls instead of meeting in person. Student members of STAND, Students Taking A New Direction, are still meeting regularly on Wednesday nights at 9:20 to learn about the Bible and to have faith-based discussions. The online semester has altered their normal meeting plans and some of their events, and they have been adapting to these changes. They are working to plan for the future while also trying to make this semester feel as normal as possible by staying connected with each other.

“Our meetings this semester have been called 20/20 at 9:20,” Blair Barstar, STAND member, said. “We go into 20 minutes of a lesson from the Bible which is followed with a 20-minute breakout group discussion.”

During a normal semester, STAND would meet in the Morgan Hall auditorium at 9 p.m. They would typically learn a lesson from the Bible with members singing and performing at different times throughout the meeting. Besides this group not being able to successfully perform their music together, some feel that this semester does not feel too different from what they know as a normal one.

“While it looks different this semester, we’re still building community,” Skyra Heckman, member, said.

As a leader in STAND, Heckman helps to conduct the discussions that take place in the breakout groups.

“We have been working hard to continue weekly meetings, Bible studies and events so that old and new members can get the most out of STAND while we are online,” Heckman said. “This means the leadership team must be more creative as we find ways to engage students and learn about God while not being together.”

Barstar, senior, said that he is upset that this semester is virtual but is grateful for the opportunity to meet with students online.

“I’d say the biggest things I’m missing out on this semester would be leading worship for the students of Cal U and missing out on the chance to share the good news of Jesus with incoming freshmen,” he said.

STAND is seeing less attendance this semester than they would see during a normal semester.

“Our numbers have been lower than in previous semesters because I think an online forum is harder for students to manage,” said Heckman. “However, we’ve had lots of regular attendees and new students who have been at our weekly meetings.”

Pete Ware, campus minister for STAND, said that it has been difficult to coordinate community-building activities with the students being at home and balancing school and work. Regardless, he says the members not only want to build connections with each other but with other members of the Cal U Community.

“One of our hopes is to help students who never explored Christianity to have the opportunity to check it out in a way that feels more welcoming,” Ware said. “During a normal semester, we get to know folks through giving away cookies or playing games on the turf and just hanging out. This semester we’ve sent a lot more direct messages through our social media platforms just so students can know who we are.”

Normally STAND attends the Jubilee conference that takes place in Pittsburgh during the spring semester. It is a weekend-long event that provides people with the opportunity to meet new faces, listen to speakers and to worship. Due to the pandemic, the plans for Cal U’s participation in the upcoming Jubilee conference are looking different.

“On Feb. 27 we are doing a one-day distance Jubilee,” said Ware. “We will watch it together if we are back on campus or remotely as needed. It will probably cost about $30.”

“I am very optimistic about the opportunity to host Jubilee at Cal,” said Barstar. “This will open the door for many students to get the chance to attend who did not get the chance to in years prior for reasons such as distance or cost.”

More details can be found at

Besides Jubilee, STAND is working to plan other events for students to participate in to meet with members. They occasionally hold social events that take place over Zoom where members participate in Kahoot trivia games.

“Coming up in November we will have a Friday night social event. To keep updated, you can follow us on Instagram,” Barstar said.

STAND can be found on Instagram by searching @standcalu

Some members of STAND are looking forward to meeting in person again.

“I really miss being able to interact and meet with students on campus. STAND is a great way to meet others and I’ve gained many friendships by being a part of it,” said Heckman. “The downside of online is that it makes it much harder to connect with students and to spend time getting to know everyone. I’m thankful that we can still do it over Zoom, but I miss being able to have the campus experience.”