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Carl Peterson '22

Young Life leader dedicated to being 'part of something bigger'

When Carl Peterson '22 became a Young Life leader during his first year at Whitworth, he was advised to keep showing up because that is the one thing he can control. Over the past four years, Peterson has faithfully continued his service, despite the disruptions brought on by the pandemic.

"Showing up provides a path for the Holy Spirit to work," Peterson says. "Our character is not made up by what we do every once in a while, but what we do consistently."

Peterson has served for the past two years as the team leader for Young Life Capernaum, a Christian ministry that serves young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In addition, he works as a paraeducator at Mead High School.

"I have a younger brother with Down syndrome, which has helped fuel my passion for loving individuals with disabilities," says Peterson, a double major in physics and secondary education.

In his role with Young Life, Peterson leads a weekly club meeting for about 20 students and also meets with them for social events like dinners, movies and bowling.

"This work is rewarding because I get to be a part of something bigger than myself," Peterson says, "and that is loving the marginalized to help them grow in relationship with their creator."

The COVID-19 pandemic made leading the ministry challenging because events would often have to be canceled. "It seemed as if nothing was certain and we were building plans on sinking sand," Peterson says. Even so, Peterson stayed committed and experienced successes in his ministry.

"This population of people with disabilities enjoyed growing in relationship over Zoom, and not many of them had Zoom fatigue like many other high schoolers did," he says. "Zoom ministry was quite successful for Capernaum in terms of the relationships that were built."

Peterson also led a successful in-person talent show outside Whitworth Church that drew more than 100 attendees in spring 2021. "Precious people were celebrated to their core," he says.

Looking back at his time at Whitworth, Peterson sees how his own faith has grown. He’s especially thankful to Young Life regional trainer and Whitworth lecturer Kent McDonald for paving the way for him to lead Capernaum.

"Whitworth has proved to be a garden for growing my faith," Peterson says. "Walking through college toward Christ with other believers has been an invaluable experience."

After graduation, Peterson plans to work in North Carolina as an intern for Reality Ministries, a nonprofit ministry similar to Capernaum. In the future, he would like to teach high school physics and coach Special Olympics Unified Sports teams.

"People with special needs will always have a huge place in my heart, and I intend to love them in school settings," he says.


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