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OPINION: Start the year off right with faith-based clubs on campus.

Faith-based clubs on campus have much to offer USF students, from hope and friendship to service opportunities. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/UNSPLASH

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” This Romans 8:28 Bible verse gives freshman and political science and criminology major Alice Messiah hope during tough times.

College students nationally have been battling astronomically high depression rates, according to the National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments.

Thankfully, faith-based clubs on campus can help students find hope. A 2022 study by The Journal of Positive Psychology said that hope is actually a good medicine for improving mental health.

Students need hope during difficult times. Faith-based clubs on campus can help provide it, along with opportunities to build friendships and serve others through mission trips.

Taye Akinyemi, a 2023 USF alum who majored in integrated public relations and advertising, spent two years going to Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship, a group that meets at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays at MSC 2709. She said the group was beneficial for her “mental wellbeing” and “served as a respite” from college stress.

“Being in Chi Alpha has provided me with a loving and friendly community with whom I can share and express my beliefs with,” she said to The Oracle on Jan. 6

In fact, studies seem to indicate that people lacking religious affiliations “are at greater risk for depressive symptoms and disorders” than those with religious beliefs, according to The American Journal of Psychiatry.

Another Christian group, Campus Crusade for Christ International (CRU), that meets at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesdays at MSC 2709, also has a positive impact on students by helping them find purpose. 

“We have seen many students who have come to college without a defining purpose in their lives. Who, through beginning a relationship with God by placing their faith in Jesus, have gained both hope in and a vision for their lives,” CRU’s USF Campus Director John Schneider said in a Jan. 6 interview with The Oracle.

This is good news for struggling students, as it means that there is a community for them to turn to when they are looking for answers about their future.

Students also have opportunities to build friendships at religious groups on campus. Messiah, who attends Orthodox Christian Campus Ministries (OOCM), said the group has impacted her because of its like-minded environment.

“It has impacted me because it has given me a community of people who share my Egyptian ethnicity and my Christian faith,” she said.

She’s not alone – Ruth Liu, a junior majoring in health sciences and world Languages and cultures, described the Chi Alpha group as an “amazing community.”

But faith-based groups do more than just benefit students – they give back to others.

Chi Alpha, for instance, offers mission trip opportunities to serve during the semester and even one in the summer. CRU, according to Schneider, has been in partnership with Filter of Hope, an organization that works to install water filters for poor families around the globe.

Students from CRU are given opportunities to travel abroad and help with this initiative, including a trip to Cuba coming up this May.

Some college students, however, are not interested in faith-based clubs. There was a 16% decline in students with religious beliefs from 1986 to 2016, according to a Higher Education Research survey.