A Georgia church helped 50 of its recent high school graduates earn $4.3 million in scholarships by mentoring and providing guidance to the students through their education ministry.
Turner Chapel AME in Marietta held a special service to honor the group, who were accepted to a combined 125 colleges and received college tuition assistance through private scholarships, institutional, merit and need-based aid.
Students come from economic backgrounds that "span the range of families with little to no financial resources to those with enough to pay some of their college costs. However, even the most affluent families find a $60,000 annual price tab out of reach without taking out loans," Mychal Wynn, leader of the education ministry told The Christian Post.
Both Wynn and his wife, Nina, co-lead the program at Turner Chapel with the purpose of helping students within their congregation search for scholarships and equip them with the skills needed to earn financial assistance.
Prior to beginning the education ministry, the Wynn's and the church had raised $3,000 for college scholarships. However, once they approached their senior pastor in 2007, the Rev. Kenneth Marcus, to begin the program, they saw how students benefited from their assistance after they began earning scholarships.
"Supporting students and families is the work of the church.Guiding students into college, debt free, allows families to continue to have the financial resources to support the work of the church and it's various outreach ministries," said Wynn.
Joining the Wynn's in their work is youth pastor Rev. Don Ezell, who assists student members with their resumes, essay writing, tutoring and preparing for state issued standardized tests.
"We are excited to have the ability to cultivate a culture of academic excellence among our youth ... We believe that it is the responsibility of the faith community to support student achievement," Ezell told CP.
Part of that culture also includes having college church members return on their breaks to help other students, or to mentor other Turner Chapel AME students, as some are the first in their family to attend college and are oftentimes unaware of educational resources.
Aside from offering help to students because its the church's responsibility, Wynn says they do it because school counselors are often overwhelmed with the number of students they are responsible for and cannot in each case provide personalized guidance.
"Churches have a tremendous knowledge base to draw from, such as retired educators, human resource professionals, college students, counselors, and high performing students," said Wynn, whose church has 6,000 members. "All such resources can be used to assist with resumes, essays, selecting high school classes, identifying summer programs, tutoring, leadership, and performing community service."
He added, "Closing the college knowledge gap and assisting in making the right college match are continuing struggles for school districts. Our work supports the intentions of school districts, brings more families with children into the church ... and contributes to the spiritual, intellectual, and leadership development of youth."