Staying close to students

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 19, 2001

Just after 11 a.

Monday, February 19, 2001

Just after 11 a.m., he quietly enters the high school commons, puts his jacket away, and begins circulating the room. Many kids know him by name and invite him to sit down.

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Other students appear to be waiting for him, and wait for a chance to talk with him. He makes time for all of them.

Lunch supervisor Greg Gudal estimates he knows about 40 percent of the kids by name; the other 60 percent he’s working on.

Gudal is executive director of South Central Minnesota Youth for Christ and the organization’s popular downtown hangout, The Rock. Since the Albert Lea High School relocated, Gudal has made a concerted effort to maintain his relationship with students he established in a decade downtown.

&uot;I’ve always volunteered as a lunch-hour supervisor, but now I try to do it four days a week. Since we don’t see the kids downtown anymore, I think its important that I come to them,&uot; Gudal said.

Gudal said his job is to simply be a friend to the kids, and be available to them during lunch period.

&uot;My mission is pretty straightforward – helping kids. One way I can do that is to be a presence at the new school,&uot; Gudal said.

Gudal and his staff at The Rock miss the flood of high school students every afternoon during lunch time. But, the closed-campus policy in place at the high school prohibits students from leaving the building during lunch.

Though Gudal misses that daily interaction with kids in a Christian atmosphere, he sees the new high school as a different kind of opportunity. Though he can no longer witness to them religiously, he can befriend more students.

&uot;I try to look at it as a chance to meet more kids that I normally wouldn’t see. I hope to know them all at some point,&uot; he said.

The high school relocation may have halted the afternoon student traffic, but The Rock’s popularity persists.

&uot;We hold a lot of evening events, and weekends we see some kids. We also now have the chance to host some other groups over lunch,&uot; Gudal said.

Adjusting to change is important to the mission of The Rock, Gudal said. With the help of a host of volunteers, he recently completed a renovation of The Rock’s basement that added a meeting room, office spaces and a kitchen.

&uot;We’re all set now,&uot; said Gudal. &uot;We got more room now than we know what to do with.&uot;

Youth for Christ is also completed the purchase of a Prairie River Camp near Bricelyn. That project is taking much of his energies.

Gudal said the challenge now is to find new ways to fill the place.

&uot;Lunch hour was a great opportunity that I hope we took advantage of,&uot; he said. &uot;The new high school is a new opportunity.&uot;