With the start of the new school year, LDS youth once again have the privilege of attending seminary and institute classes while in high school and college. They often hit the ground running, pumped with enthusiasm and excited to strike the elusive balance between secular and spiritual learning.
But what happens when school projects, homework and exams start to pile up and there never seem to be enough time to fit house chores, extra-curricular tasks and leisure activities between school and seminary? One of the challenges faced by the Seminary and Institute programs of the Church in the Philippines maybe summed up in two words that are unique to our culture: ningas kugon. This refers to enthusiastically starting things but losing steam soon after, like the cogon grass that is highly flammable but burns our real fast.
What can help our youth to be more consistent in attending their seminary and institute classes? Here are five ways to make sure the seminary and institute program in your ward or branch is ningas kugon-free.
The success a child achieves depends on the support that parents give. Joel and Lynn Española of Quezon City South Stake get up at 2:45am every weekday to help their son Duane prepare for his early morning seminary class. The 16-year old is quick to admit that he is motivated to do well in Seminary because of the sacrifices of his parents. Their hard work tells him that Seminary is indeed important.
Parents working closely with leaders is a sure-fire formula for success. Fiona Miranda from Digos Stake recently received her Institute diploma, four years after graduating from Seminary. The cum laude credits the weekly interviews with her bishop and youth leaders as effective ways to keep her inspired in both secular and spiritual education.
Fiona also acknowledges who go the extra mile and are mentors in and outside the classroom. They innovate with exciting activities and even “reward programs” to keep the students enthusiastic. This is the secret behind the success of Matnog Branch in Bulan District which allowed them to increase seminary enrollment from 23 to 82.
Branch President Reil Elpos says “We make sure we have called the right kind of teachers who are committed and dedicated to teaching in seminary. I counsel the teachers to love their students, be a friend to them, and to reach out to them individually and to attend to their needs. They have to take the extra mile even beyond the classroom setting, to express love and concern for the individual well-being of their students and to report immediately to the branch council any challenges that hinder students who are not coming to seminary anymore and to immediately resolve as a council to prevent discontinuity of students in the program.” (see http://www.mormonnewsroom.ph/article/seminarys-phenomenal-success-in-matnog-branch-bulan-philippines-district for the full story).
We make sure we have called the right kind of teachers who are committed and dedicated to teaching in seminary. I counsel the teachers to love their students, be a friend to them, and to reach out to them individually and to attend to their needs.
4. Positive peer pressure.
The youth will not likely be tempted to skip seminary and hang out with non-LDS classmates if he is good friends with his seminary classmates. “I admit, I sometimes go to seminary just to be with them, but I end up learning anyway so it’s all good,” says Mikhail, 17, of Quezon City Stake. He was also inspired when Bea, a classmate, resigned as the captain of her champion cheerleading squad in order to prioritize seminary. Another example was Enos, who graduated with a perfect attendance in all four years of seminary.
5. Choose the better part.
“I was inspired by what Jesus told Martha in Luke 10:41-42: ‘Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part.’ I realized that seminary was that good part, and that is why I still chose to attend seminary even during exam week. I knew it was more important than secular knowledge, and the Lord still blessed me to be at the top of my class. When I graduated from seminary, I responded to Pres. Monson’s call to ‘Make the institute a priority’ so I prioritized my institute classes despite my hectic college schedule,” declares Fiona about the choices she made.
For his part, Enos shared the following: “At first, I wanted to achieve 100% attendance because my parents challenged me, but as I grew in seminary, I realized how important the class was. I really looked forward to going to the chapel everyday to learn. I just wanted to go because seminary was fun and it strengthened my testimony. I think in the end, I didn’t want to miss a single class because of the lessons I learned and the fun I had with them. Everyone played a role: my parents, friends and teachers.
There you have it, five simple but important ingredients that will keep every seminary and institute safe from the ningas kugon phenomenon. If you have tips you have proven effective, please add them in the comments section below.
I think in the end, I didn’t want to miss a single class because of the lessons I learned and the fun I had with them. Everyone played a role: my parents, friends and teachers.
Seminary students share their feelings about the lesson.
Seminary students participate in regular stake seminary classes.
A student reads from the scriptures.