Ideas to help students ‘keep the faith’ at college

Lexie Kwiek, 25, sales associate at the Franciscan Place, gathers back to school gifts for students. Photo submitted

By Pat Shea
Associate editor

College students need a wide variety of supplies when heading off to campus to start a new school year, especially if it’s freshman year. Along with notebooks, backpacks, pillows, comforters, pictures of the family, (and, of course, food), bibles, crosses, faith-inspired t-shirts, key chains and faith-inspired books are finding a place in the dorm room, too.
“Parents have been stopping in all summer to find things to help their kids hold onto their faith when they’re starting college,” stated Rosemary Costa, OFS, director of the Franciscan Place Chapel and Gift Shoppe at Destiny USA Mall in Syracuse. Costa stated parents purchase religious medals, books, crosses, wall crucifixes, rosary beads, Fat Friar cookies, and even prayer bracelets for students to bring with them to school.
“A woman stopped in to purchase a St. Michael token for her son who was heading off to college. She had seven children and this boy was the youngest of the group. She wanted to give him this token, which is like a coin, to remind him of his family, his faith, and to call home,” stated Costa.
The Franciscan Place, located on the Commons level of Destiny USA, offers many faith-inspired gifts for students beginning the college experience or returning to campus.
“One of the most popular gifts we’ve seen purchased for students is the ‘continuous rosary’ bracelet,” explained Costa. “It’s inexpensive, can be worn like a bracelet and it’s a ‘no brainer’ for helping [students] say the rosary.”
If books are more a student’s style, the Franciscan Place offers several devotionals geared toward young adults as well as books targeted to issues and concerns for today’s college students, including the following: Tweeting with God by Father Michael Remery; Prayer in the Digital Age by Matt Swaim; Day by Day by Pope Francis; Your College Faith: Own It! by Matt and Colleen Swaim; God’s Plan for You: Life, Love, Marriage & Sex by David Hajduk; and Be Beautiful, Be You by Lizzie Velasquez.
Along with religious gifts and cards, the Franciscan Place chapel also offers parents and students a peaceful place to take a break from the hectic pace of school shopping and pray together.
“This is a crazy time for both kids and parents,” explained Costa. “The gifts we offer can help put a parent’s mind to rest and help a student feel connected to God, no matter where they’re attending school.”

T-shirts to make even a pope smile
College-bound students looking to make a fashion as well as a faith statement can find a wide selection of shirts and gifts  at Salt of the Earth Design & Apparel at Destiny USA.
The store, owned and operated by Delvin and Alesia Vick, is located on the second level at the mall. Opened in June, the store has already piqued the interest of students and families shopping for back to school fashions and dorm room décor.
“Most people are so excited to see our products but there are some people who walk by the store confused, and others just stare, realize we’re a Christian store and take off at a bolt,” laughed Delvin Vick.
The brightly lit, modern setup of the store was designed by the Vicks to appeal to all ages and showcase a wide assortment of faith-inspired fashion, mugs, magnets, stationery and jewelry with scripture imprinted on it. The shirts, however, with both faith and fun-inspired statements, are the store’s best sellers.
“I have sort of a snarky sense of humor which comes out in many of the items we offer,” stated Alesia with a smile.
The shirts offered at Salt of the Earth come in a large variety of colors and styles. One of the store’s top-selling shirts, available in orange, navy blue or white, is aimed specifically at Syracuse Orange fans and proclaims, “God, Family, Orange, in that Order.”
“It’s a great shirt for students who are attending Syracuse University or a fun gift for Syracuse students heading off to other colleges to remember where they’re from,” explained Delvin. Other top-selling shirts include “Red Sea 5K” and Amazing Grace shirts.
The Vicks believe that faith-inspired apparel and gifts for students will not only “bring joy, but will help [students] stay the course of their faith while in school.”

For more information on the Franciscan Place, call (315) 471-9511. For more information on Salt of the Earth Design & Apparel, call (315) 748-5020.

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