Stevens (left) works with a middle school student at The Crossing in Mishawaka.

Kaila Stevens (’12) and Cassandra Natali (’13) are going the distance in the race of mentoring some of Michiana’s at-risk students. The two track athletes and college roommates have been volunteering weekly at The Crossing Educational Center — a faith-based, alternative school — since the beginning of the 2011-’12 school year. The experience has allowed the athletes to coach and bond with The Crossing students, as well as learn from them.

The pair got involved with The Crossing through Bethel’s summer retreat called SALT (Student Athlete Leadership Team), says Natali, a junior at Bethel. They are two of dozens of Bethel student athlete leaders who volunteer at schools throughout the area.

“I help teach lesson plans, and help the teacher conduct classroom lessons,” says Stevens, a senior at Bethel. Other duties include working on study guides, walking the students through quizzes and participating in family time, where the athletes get to know the students on a one-on-one basis.

“Some of the best experiences that I have at The Crossing are during the family time,” says Natali. “That is a time where the instructors read a passage from the Bible and we all talk about it. It’s a great time to hear what the students think about God and how I can maybe witness to some of them.”

The two agree that The Crossing students just need a little extra attention and push to get them going. And sometimes simply providing a listening ear can make an impact. “The most fulfilling experience to me is when the kids open up to me because they trust me,” says Stevens, who adds that merely talking to someone can make all the difference in the world.

The course has been such a good one for the athletes that they are extending their work with The Crossing from one semester to an entire school year, and possibly even longer.

“[We] have continued going to The Crossing because we just love it so much,” says Natali. “This experience is teaching me to love everyone, no matter what their past is or their ‘label.’ Many of the kids at The Crossing are so broken and I just want to be a light for Christ in a small place like that.”