Just ten miles from the California coast in downtown Orange County is the beautiful city of Santa Ana. With its high temperatures and cheery sunshine, it is no surprise that there is a large student enrollment at the Santa Ana Institute. It is not thanks to the weather that the numbers are so high, though. It is thanks to the recent efforts of local members and students reaching out and inviting others.
Area director Scott Knecht described the Santa Ana Institute attendance at its lowest point, not more than a few months ago, as having only 10 students enrolled in the daytime program. The numbers were so low that administrators had serious concerns about the future of the program. The faculty and students of Santa Ana knew something had to change if the institute program was to continue.
They came up with a plan requiring a team effort on the part of students, parents, teachers and priesthood leaders. Their first step was to accommodate more students by offering new class times. In addition, parents started to come during noon classes to cook lunch for students, and even the full time missionaries eventually participated by inviting everyone they contacted to attend institute.
Although these proved to be effective methods, the most powerful and meaningful method was the reaching out done by the students. As the students of the Santa Ana Institute recognized how much institute had blessed their lives, they realized how important it was for other students to participate in institute and receive the same blessings. Their own personal experiences made it easier to reach out to those around them.
It was this idea of reaching out that changed Ricardo Garduno’s life. As a recent convert and less active member, Garduno was not participating in institute or even attending church. One day, however, he was invited to come to institute, and he decided to give it a try. “I met friends and began to read and study the word. Every time I came I got messages that helped me get through the week,” explained Garduno, “Finally, I went back to church. I am getting ready to go on a mission now.” Garduno’s life changed simply because he was invited.
More stories like Garduno’s began sprouting, and in just a few months, enrollment jumped to over fifty students in the daytime classes, numbers that now remain consistently at over one hundred students. This is one of many miracles that happen or can happen across the world as students work together to reach out and find those not receiving the magnificent blessings of institute.
Our beloved prophet, President Monson, has promised, “… as you participate in institute and study the scriptures diligently, your power to avoid temptation and to receive direction of the Holy Ghost in all you do will be increased.” Let us reach out to those around us, no matter where we are, and invite all to receive the great blessings that come when we participate in institute.