My name is Dan Walker, and I want to introduce you to FOCUS from several perspectives. I became the Executive Director in April of 2008, but my first contact with FOCUS was more than four decades ago, when I was 14 years old. I have known FOCUS as a student, as a parent, and as a staff member.
When I was attending St. George’s School in Rhode Island, FOCUS gave me and other students opportunities to investigate the Christian faith in a thoughtful and personal manner. That included reading and studying the Bible, not only in an academic way, but also to discover how its contents might affect our lives. I was impressed that members of the FOCUS staff would visit our campus for meetings or just to share a meal with me. There were also summer and winter FOCUS programs where I spent a week or more with students from across New England, building friendships and learning more about God and more about myself. Those experiences were invaluable in the formation of my faith as a teenager.
When I became a parent, my wife Leslea and I were profoundly grateful for the opportunities that FOCUS gave our three children. There were young men and women who served as positive role models and mentors for our children; there were all sorts of events, both weekly meetings locally and week-long programs (like the ones I had attended) where they could examine the relevance of Christianity for their own lives in an atmosphere in which they could be themselves, completely free of pretense. There was also lots of fun, and my children were able to make sincere and lasting friendships. In addition, what they learned at FOCUS provided much fodder for our family discussions.
In 1996, I became Area Director for FOCUS in Fairfield, CT and Westchester, NY. I wanted to be a part of this organization in order to help ensure that other teenagers would have the same opportunities I had. All too often FOCUS stands alone in providing independent school students the chance to ask “the big questions” and to examine the claims of Christianity in a comfortable and non-threatening atmosphere.
And that is why I am pleased to introduce you to FOCUS. For nearly 60 years, FOCUS has been offering teenagers (like me) a wide range of contexts in which to explore faith in God for themselves, whether it be weekly meetings at their schools or near their schools, week-long summer programs and service projects, or fall and winter weekend retreats. They have fun, they form lasting friendships, and they have the opportunity to examine issues that their world often gives them no other serious opportunity to examine. Some come to a faith in God that will last them for life. My hope as Executive Director is that today’s students will one day be able to introduce their own children to FOCUS, just as I was.