Grilled Cheese Thursdays: East student’s senior project bringing ‘Idol’ star to Columbus to support ministry outreach

Copyright, The Republic, Columbus.

COLUMBUS, Ind. — Music, faith and grilled cheese.

Columbus East High School senior Ashlynn Waddle says these are her favorite things in life and they all tie into her senior project.

Waddle has organized a youth outreach concert that will be held at East at 7 p.m. on Feb. 18 and feature Christian musician Colton Dixon, who previously competed on “American Idol.” Tickets, which were $10 for adults, have sold out, and registration for youth 20 years and younger, who can attend the event for free, is now full.

According to Waddle, any profits from the event that are above costs will go to benefit “Grilled Cheese Thursday,” an outreach program hosted by the youth ministry at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church.

The program invites Bartholomew County high school students to come to St. Peter’s on Thursdays during the school year for a free lunch featuring grilled cheese sandwiches, of course. Students can arrive at 11:35 a.m. or 1:05 p.m. each week.

“The youth come during their lunch mods to get a free lunch, hang out, just to have a safe environment to gather together,” said Lisa Witte, youth ministry administrative assistant at St. Peter’s and facilitator of Grilled Cheese Thursdays.

“They come, eat, usually have music playing,” said youth ministry director Mike Jessop. “We have ping-pong tables and foosball, and some kids play that, but really, it’s just a chance for them to get a free meal and socialize with their friends.”

In a promotional video about the concert and her project, Waddle described Grilled Cheese Thursday as a place where all students can come for “fun, fellowship and free food.”

“For students, money can sometimes be an issue, especially if they play sports and they can’t have a job, or they have a job and they have bills to pay,” she said. “It’s a great place that they can go and just get free lunch It’s always there. And then it just provides a great community for the students. It’s always a place that you can go, and it’s no judgement, no strings attached. You can just go and eat grilled cheese with your friends.”

For Waddle, who loves concerts and music, her senior project isn’t just about supporting the outreach program; it also gives students an opportunity to attend an event they might not otherwise get to see.

It’s been a time-consuming effort, with Waddle putting in more than 100 hours. This has included communicating with a talent agency to find a musician who could perform at the event, seeking local sponsors, filling the requirements of Dixon’s appearance in Columbus and organizing the event.

For the complete story and more photos, see Saturday’s Republic.