Students nodded along and jotted notes as their professor lectured during a Life of Christ elective class. It was a similar picture in the classroom next door, where "American Thought and Culture" -- a Humanities class -- was under way.
It's fall semester at Gather 4 Him Christian College, and enrollment is growing as the college's leaders look to expand the existing 5,000-square-foot facility on Aaron Drive in Richland.
Gather 4 Him, a Christian liberal arts college, offers a two-year associate degree with emphasis in biblical studies, with the goal of motivating and preparing students for "Christ-centered service in the church or community."
Currently, 36 students are enrolled, with at least another five set to join next semester.
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The students take core classes in subjects from communication to science, as well as biblical education electives, with options from Christian Theology to Intro to Worship Arts and Servant Leadership. Students also must complete a practicum, gaining hands-on experience by working at a church, business or nonprofit.
All of the classes at Gather 4 Him are taught from a biblical world view.
Bob Nash, founder and president, said many young people don't know what they want to do with their lives right out of high school. Gather 4 Him college "is a tool to (help) them get a good grounding in the Word and figure out what God's call is in their life," he said.
Tuition is $6,000 a year, with scholarships available. Gather 4 Him is authorized by the Washington Student Achievement Council to grant the associate degree, with transfer agreements in place with Corban University in Salem, Eastern Washington University in Cheney and Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho.
It's also pursuing national accreditation, which would bring a higher level of accountability, smoother transfer of degrees and credits, and allow students to seek federal financial aid, according to information from the college.
The college grew out of Gather 4 Him Ministries, which started in 2005 with the goal of working with churches to equip youth leaders.
It's been in its Aaron Drive home for about two years, leasing the space. Leaders have launched a campaign to raise $1.3 million to buy the building, give it a facelift and add about 2,600 square feet, including two science labs, a student lounge and more restrooms.
A fundraiser in Richland on Oct. 11 featuring Ruth Graham, daughter of evangelist Billy Graham, was to help with the goal.
At the college one morning last week, some students talked about why they signed up.
Second-year student Matthias Ramirez, 22, of Pasco, said Gather 4 Him's Christian perspective drew him in.
"I really liked the fact that it was a Christian school -- a place where I can achieve and receive great educational benefits, but as well my Christian faith will be tested and approved," said Rami-rez, who helps lead worship during the college's chapel services.
Morgan Hall, 18, of Kennewick, is in her first year. She learned about Gather 4 Him years ago and kept tabs on its growth as she moved through high school. She said it provides a solid support system, adding that she likes that the professors pray before class. "No matter what problems you have, they want you to talk with them. You're not just a student, you're part of a family," she said.
-- Online: www.gather4him.net