Rochester Reach

Students lead a Christian prayer and devotion club at RHS


Reach members gather around the flag pole as they pray like they do towards the end of every meeting.

Mariam Hanna, Lifestyles & Entertainment Editor

Every other Tuesday, junior Zoe Sawdon gets up early to come to Rochester High School to lead and partake in Rochester Reach, a new unofficial club devoted to Christian prayer. She is a head of the club along with freshman Lauren Kolodsick and sophomore Ana Hernandez, and the sponsors are language arts teacher Mr. Todd Meisch and spanish/language arts teacher Ms. Claire Scislowicz.

RHS is a diverse school full of students and staff of different cultures and religions, and this is exhibited through the multiple religious clubs at the school. Reach is an example of this, as well as the Muslim Student Association that ran last school year. RHS also offers theology, a class lead  by Mrs. Sarah Meish that teaches students about world religions.

Reach meets every other Tuesday at 7 a.m. in Ms. Scisolwicz’s room.

“It’s really, really chill,” said Hernandez. “We start off by eating donuts and talking about our day. Then, we have a devotional that starts off our whole week, and  a good starter. After that, we pray and go to our classes.”

Because Reach is not an official club, anyone who wants to join can go to whatever meetings he or she can make, and there is not a fee.

“Our group isn’t an official club just because we thought that would be better since when you join a club, you have to pay a fee and that sometimes turns people away,” said Sawdon. “So we thought if it was more casual and something we just organized by ourselves, that would make it easier for people to come and join whenever they want to.”

While Reach meetings run smoothly now, they were not always that way. According to Sawdon, it took some time to get the routine going.

“I think the first couple meetings were just trial and error,” said Sawdon. “We probably only had around ten people each meeting, and then this it has kind of grown. It was easier last year to just wing it, but it’s a new club so it definitely started out small, but it’s growing.”

This is the second year Reach is running. Sawdon and class of 2018 graduate Grace Klein began the club during the 2017-2018 school year.

“We went to church together, so were thinking, ‘Oh, we want a group dedicated to prayer and just studying the bible at our school’ because we did not have one yet,” said Sawdon. “Actually, Ms. Scislowicz goes to church with me, so I knew her, and I was able to talk to her, and then she referred me over to Mr. Meisch. That’s where that started.”

The main goal of Reach is to connect students who have the same faith and priorities. This was the reason Sawdon began the prayer group, and it has continued to be one of its main points.

“Our goal was there’d be a place where other Christians would come and meet together and establish a community,” said Sawdon. “So, when your walking down the hall, and you see someone else from the club, you’re like, ‘Hey, look! There’s another person who I know who also loves God just like I do.’.”

Along with other members, Hernandez exemplifies this purpose of Reach.

“Before [joining Reach], I had no friends in church, and now, I have a lot of friends,” said Hernandez. “Also, talking to new people is really hard for me, so [Reach] helps with that.”

Reach members sit together to discuss that morning’s Bible reading.

Although Reach is not an official RHS club, it still has teacher sponsors: Mr. Meish and Ms. Scislowicz These teachers let Reach members in the school early and allow them to hold their meetings in their rooms. They also occasionally meet with the group leaders to discuss plans and ideas.  

“I’ve been kind of letting the students take over so far, so I’ve just kind of been in the room, but I guess the first goal is to make it more wide known,” said Ms. Scislowicz. “I don’t know if a lot of students know about it. So, Mrs. Meisch and I are taking that on. [Zoe Sawdon wrote] a little information card about what it is, and [Mrs. Meisch] is sending it to other churches in Rochester, so hopefully, informing the youth groups or other kids that it’s happening [will allow Reach to grow].”

“It’s good having a teacher sponsor because they can always look out for us,” said Sawdon. “Even though we’re not an official club, I still know we’ve got those teachers in the building who are like, ‘Okay, this is our group. We’ll be looking out for them.’.”

This is the second year Reach has ran, but it is Ms. Scislowicz first year sponsoring the organization.

“Zoe Sawdon first came to me last year, but I teach- or I did teach- at Stoney Creek in the mornings, so I couldn’t do it for her unfortunately,” said Ms. Scislowicz. “So this year, she got in touch with me again because she knew i would be here in the mornings [and I was able to do it].

As a teacher, Ms. Scislowicz sees RHS students’ stress and all the outside pressures coming at them, and she believes Reach is a good way to calm down and destress.

“[Reach] is something I’m passionate about,” said Ms. Scislowicz. “ I have a faith, too, and I love to see students come together, especially before school when they’re stressed, and just kind of relieve that and pray together… Especially when kids feel like they have no other person to go to, they at least have this group.”

Ms. Scislowicz also knows there are many students who may want to join a prayer group like Reach but are too nervous to.

“If you’re more quiet and reserved and you don’t like praying in front of people, I’d say don’t let that hinder you,” said Ms. Scislowicz. “Come anyway because other people will lead and its more really like you’re soaking it in. Even if you’re not a leader or you’re not super outgoing, its still the place for you.”

Similarly, Reach has allowed Sawdon to become more outgoing and try new things. Not only has her faith grown because of this prayer group, but so have her leadership skills. Being one of the group leaders, she has had to step out of her comfort zone.

“I have learned that you can’t be timid about it,” said Sawdon. “You can’t just be like ‘I don’t know if people are going to  like this’ or like ‘I’ll just wait it out and see what happens’. You have to be really ambitious, even if the task that you want to accomplish seems big and daunting, you have to just kind of  jump right it and start doing it or else it’s never going to happen.”

Sawdon’s faith is significant to her because it is part of who she is as a person and impacts the life she leads. Her love for her religion is what got her thinking about having a prayer group at RHS in the first place.

“I love Jesus, and my faith to me motivates me to love other people,” said Sawdon. “Since middle school, I’ve been really involved in my church, and I think this year, I’ve definitely tried to bring that into school. I think my faith is what gives me confidence because I know my identity is found in how God defines me, not how other people do.”

Hernandez is another leader of Reach. Similar to Sawdon, Hernandez’s faith is important to her and wanted to bring her love for God to school.

“In seventh grade, I kind of  went through a dark time,” said Hernandez. “I didn’t really believe in God, but after I went to this camp, He really helped me. I knew who He was, and I found Him. Knowing somebody who is there for me no matter what really helped me.”

Hernandez attends Woodside Bible Church, where she is an ambassador. She learned about Reach through this program, and she shares Sawdon’s passion.

“My church has school ambassadors who represent each school, and they asked me if I wanted to [lead Reach] with a couple of my friends who also go to Rochester,” said Hernandez. “I wanted to also spread the word of God at school because school is a dark place, and even though people might not believe in God, just knowing that he’s there and spreading that light is why I like to be in this group.”

Aside from goals for Reach, Hernandez has goals she wants to achieve within her faith in the future.

“I’d like to work with special needs in the ministry,” said Hernandez. “So, I want to spend more time with them, and I also want other people to grow like I did and know that God is always there no matter what.”

Reach is only one of the ways Hernandez stays involved in her church and participates in religious activities. She also goes on mission trips and tries to live through her faith.

“I do a lot of mission trips,” said Hernandez. “I also, at home, I try not to be snarky to my mom when she asks me to do something. At school, I try to implement small little things that include God. I try to make decisions that He would make and try to be more like Him every day towards other people even when I don’t want to be because they’re rude.”

Sawdon and Hernandez truly love partaking in and leading Rochester Reach. They urge anyone who shares their love for the Christian faith and for God to join!

“If you want more information, you can come to me,” said Hernandez. It’s super fun, super chill, and you can always rely on someone when you’re alone.”