1100 Golden Eagle Circle, Naples, FL
NAPLES — It’s about faith.
“Remember that God is the God of second chances,” said Golden Gate High School junior William Norelia.
Norelia was one among several testimonials and performances at the fifth annual Fields of Faith event at Naples High School on Tuesday evening.
Clapping, chanting and music filled the air as 800 to 900 people — mostly teens — took part in the program, which was aimed at getting teens to talk with their peers about leading a good Christian life.
Fields of Faith was started by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas back 2004.
In 2006, the event went nationwide and has since gone on to take place in 35 states.
Naples High sophomore Bianca Hills attended the event, after learning about it from her church.
“I just knew I wanted to go,” Bianca, 15, said.
And considering the kind of trouble teenagers can get into, Bianca’s grandmother Vignell Hills said she was glad the teen was connecting with her religion.
“I thought it was good because it was dealing with faith,” said Vignell Hills who attended Tuesday’s event with Bianca and her 3-year-old great granddaughter Tehrya Leaphart.
But the event was not limited to area students, who came from multiple schools including Lely High, Barron Collier High, First Baptist Academy, and Naples Christian Academy.
Naples resident Kerry Cuevas attended the event with her husband and 11-year-old son.
“We missed it last year, because I had surgery. So this is our first time really,” said Cuevas, 47, adding that everybody she knew who attended last year’s Fields of Faith spoke well of it. “We came to see the kids and how inspired they are. It’s interesting because you only see the mix (of kids) at football games, so to see all these kids get together for one reason is kind of neat … and hopefully he (my son) gets inspired.”
Gulfview sixth-grader Peter Cuevas said he too was excited to be at the Fields of Faith event.
According to the Collier County School District’s facilities policy, the School Board encourages the use of District facilities and grounds for educational, civic, cultural, recreational, artistic and charitable activities and programs to benefit the community.
And the field was not ‘donated’ by the school district for the event.
Although there is nothing inherently wrong with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes renting out the fields for the event- because the district does not discriminate when it comes to leasing their facilities to religious or secular groups, officials with the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida said there could be an issue if the schools involved actively promoted the event.
“If the administrators, or teachers or coaches feel like this is consistent with their personal beliefs, so they are going to be going out of their way to endorse this event, then there would be problems,” said Glenn Katon, director of Religious Freedom Project for the ACLU of Florida.
Katon added that if schools give equal promotion to other religious or secular events they’d be in the clear.
One other issue that could cause problems, Katon said is if Naples High teachers actively participate in the Fields of Faith events.
“If coaches and teachers are attending this event and it is in a capacity of participating and sharing their faith with the students, that may very well be a problem,” he said.
Gretchen Shelton, area director of Southwest Florida’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes, said the fellowship has been a recognized school club for more than 50 years and is open to everyone.
“We are all here to worship God,” she said.
As for any teachers or coaches that may have been involved with Tuesday’s event, Shelton said many are involved with FCA clubs in their schools.