Fourth Year Reflection: Henry Sarpong

How did you first get connected to the Study Center?

Henry Sarpong
Henry Sarpong

I transferred to UVA as a third year in the spring of 2014, and learned about the Study Center through my mom’s friend in Northern Virginia. This friend’s daughter was part of the Elzinga Residential Scholars Program (ERSP) and lived in the Yellow House years ago. Although I knew the Study Center existed, I really got connected with this awesome facility and its programs through the staff (in my opinion, some of the most amazing leaders in the UVA community). I met with Jay McCabe, then Lane, Shelly, Bill, and the rest of the staff, all of whom were so welcoming. I talked with them and realized that there was an opportunity to be part of the residential program as a new student. To this day, I think joining the ERSP was one of the best decisions God led me to make during my time here.

How has the Study Center informed your time at the University?

I have been a resident at the Study Center for two years now, which has given me the opportunity to be in a mentorship program with the Study Center staff. This place has given me a sense of community and has helped me build great relationships with staff members and other students involved in the ministry. I have also had the opportunity to volunteer with programs like Exam Snacks, Move-In Day Lunch, and more, which have been some of the greatest joys because these are opportunities to extend the love of Christ to my fellow students.

Perhaps the most important message I’ve received from the Study Center during my time at the University is the relevance of community. During my first semester as a transfer student, I spent a lot of time alone in my room because I only knew a few people. However, the Study Center quickly became my community because it is where I found other like-minded students who shared a faith in, and curiosity about, Jesus Christ.

How has the gospel changed you during college? How has the Study Center played a part in that?

For me, the gospel has changed my perspective of who I am and where I find my identity. Without a doubt, the Study Center has played a very important role in this process. I transferred to UVA and discovered how easy it is to get caught up in finding your identity in grades and academic achievements. My transition was very difficult because I wasn’t doing well in most of my classes at the start, and I found myself focusing on the wrong ideas of success. However, as I started connecting with the Study Center and staff through weekly fellowship with other residents, mentorship with the staff, and Bill Wilder’s God and Vocation seminary class, I came to realize that my true identity is in Christ, and God’s plan for my life is far extends beyond my grades.

Although our primary goal as we head to college is to do well in school, various organizations like the Study Center incorporate important values like service, living in community, and faith (to mention a few). These values are not any less significant than getting a good education. I would advise incoming parents and students to get to know the Study Center and to build relationship with the staff members. We only spend few hours in lectures and most of our time outside of class is dependent on the values we hold close to our hearts. I am just one example of how beneficial the Study Center has been in shaping students’ lifestyles throughout their time in college.

What is unique about the Study Center that you want to communicate from your perspective as a fourth year?

What I really admire about the Study Center is how open and welcoming the members of the staff are to students. They devote their time to provide support and guidance in all areas, including, but also beyond, academics. I want to stress “all areas of life” because, as college students, we have a lot of questions about life as a whole. I am thankful for the dedication of the staff at the Study Center to provide students with wisdom in our faith as it applies to living, serving, working, relationships, etc.. In my opinion, they are a great example of how to build community while demonstrating the love of Christ. It is easy to forget about the staff members that work up in the attic because you have to walk up a few flights of stairs to get there, but I am thankful for developing great relationships with those individuals who work behind-the-scenes, as well.

Your time as an undergrad at the University is coming to a close. What are your immediate or long-term vocational aspirations? What role has the Study Center played in preparing you for the next stage(s) of your life?

I am thankful to God to be working on a youth project with two other students in West Africa this summer after graduation. We will engage with college-aged students in Ghana to help improve their civic skills so they can address pertinent issues in their local communities. I am still aspiring to continue my education in medical school and will spend most of my time working in hospitals and preparing myself for the MCAT after my project this summer. God has used the Study Center, especially through Bill’s class, to help me understand that I am God’s workmanship, created for good works. I believe this is an important concept for students to understand as most of us take comfort in our careers and grades rather than in God’s purpose for our life. Through the various opportunities that the Study Center offers and the truth that it teaches, I know that I can rest in Christ’s work, and focus on the Lord to do what He has predestined me to accomplish, for His glory.