Here’s a student highlight story on Kenei Menning from the Iowa CARP chapter.
Meet Kenei, a young and motivated student learning to re-engage with the direction his life is going in. Kenei is finishing up his final credits for his teaching degree while already holding a degree in Mathematics. In addition to his studies, Kenei works at a drugstore and plays the piano for several churches (Catholic and United Methodist) in his area as well as at weddings and funerals.
Before his engagement to the beautiful Katie Howe and becoming involved with CARP in the past few months, Kenei was happy with his life and its direction, but felt he could do more.
“I graduated college, got a job and didn’t use my degree, which is not uncommon among recent graduates. It was a few years of drifting and going with the flow. But I realized I am not engaging myself to be active in my life’s direction.”
A combination of getting engaged and undertaking coaching with CARP helped Kenei realize he wanted to be better and more effective in his life and with his community.
Establishing a New Community
Instead of starting a campus CARP chapter, Kenei committed to creating an Iowa CARP chapter with fellow young 2nd generation Unificationists in Iowa’s small and spread out community. He has a vision for this chapter to provide community and a feeling of closeness to these college-aged students.
“When I was growing up, we never got to see each other except during summer camps. The demographic is older now and we need something to bring us together. The motivation is that a lot of people didn’t get to know a lot of other young Unificationists growing up. This memory of isolation is something I don’t want for the future.”
One challenge to gathering people together is the distance as many community members live far away from one another. In an effort to bring together as many CARP members as possible, Kenei is aligning CARP chapter meetings with the statewide monthly potluck service the Unificationist community holds.
Reaching out and getting participants excited to come to the event has been the major obstacle, however, having anyone there is a goal and an accomplishment in itself.
The most recent Iowa Carp chapter gathering was held in the Cedar Falls Learning Center on the afternoon of December 4th after Sunday Service. There were five total participants although more were expected, but due to slick snow-covered road conditions from the ongoing weather, several expected participants were unable to attend.
However small they were, they were excited to be there. By the end of the meeting, the goals of feeling more connected with each other and being willing to open up had improved slightly.
As quoted by a participant: “The highlight of my week is to be here with you guys.” He’s already looking forward to the next gathering.
Finding Support in Unexpected Places
There are many resources out there for support if one is open to the opportunities. Kenei attended a young adult workshop in Minneapolis, MN last October hosted by David Young, one of CARP’s coaches. There, he was immersed in an energetic and motivated environment but he knew the feeling wouldn’t last. Signing up for the CARP coaching program would help him to keep on track with acting on his goals.
“Coaching helped me get a lot of things in order. I always had a lot of ideas but never really implemented them. Having the weekly coaching sessions and knowing I could always ask my coach for help pushed me to the things I always wanted to.”
One of Kenei’s passions is to establish greater communication and connection between young members of his community. So, he established a reason for young college-aged members to meet up and hold authentic discussions with the Iowa CARP chapter.
“Starting the chapter opened up resources I wasn’t even aware of.”
Some of the 1st generation Unificationist members could align themselves with Kenei’s vision and now he has support from his larger community as well. Kenei is supported by the local Pastor Swearson and district Pastor Ha who also met with CARP’s coaches at one time and is able to support Kenei with whatever he needs.
Do More than Selling Drugs
With the support of his community and coaching, Kenei was empowered to establish an avenue for community engagement while also finishing his teaching degree and preparing more for a new kind of life with Katie.
“I am aspiring to do better and get a job doing more than selling drugs (pharmaceutical products).”
By engaging with the community, Kenei is growing his capabilities to serve and truly apply the Unification Principles from establishing genuine relationships to facilitating meaningful discussions around values. Starting with his community engagement, Kenei hopes to contribute on a larger scale by connecting young adults in the district and ultimately in shaping the larger society.
We are proud of Kenei’s victories thus far and encourage him to continue to ENGAGE in his life and with his (future) wife!