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Raising up future leaders

Singing the US National Anthem for the Lantern Lighting of Macon's Cherry Blossom festival. A few music students are chosen to sing national anthems; I sang for three years, performing the Japanese, Chinese, and United States anthems.

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Gift of Hope scholar Alannah Shelby Rivers builds on the support of her church as she pursues her education and grows her faith.

Alannah Shelby Rivers is a self-described bookworm. The home-schooled student spent a lot of time on her own at home and in hospitals as her father battled a chronic illness.

“I had a lot of freedom to explore what I was really interested in and to develop as an independent thinker,” she said.

Rivers also was involved from an early age with her local church, Warrenton First United Methodist Church in Warrenton, Georgia, which helped foster her passion for music. She studied music at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, and was the recipient of a Gift of Hope scholarship funded through United Methodist Student Day.

“My home church has been incredible in supporting me through an annual scholarship, which they added onto in order to meet the minimum for the scholarship to be matched through The United Methodist Church and my undergraduate institution (which is a Methodist college). … Regarding the denomination as a whole, I have received scholarships from the denomination from the beginning of my college career, which helped me to devote more time to my studies without having to balance working an hours-heavy job and attending class,” she said.

Performing for Wesleyan's STUNT, a scholarship benefit program where the classes compete with musicals put on for the community.

Beyond money, Rivers said her church supported her in a vairety of ways, including after her father passed away. "I really felt the love and support from my church family as they helped in every possible way."

Church members continued to embrace her as she pursued her education. Several members even came to Wesleyean to hear her senior recital.

Rivers said it is important that United Methodists continue to support United Methodist Student Day, one of the six churchwide Special Sundays of The United Methodist Church, and to build up future leaders.

“I think it is true everywhere, but maybe most of all in the church, that young people will build the future. Students in particular are vulnerable and face a lot of challenges, but they are taking the steps to develop themselves further. The church’s support of them is crucial not only for their personal development, but also for their continued membership and leadership within the denomination,” she said.

Rivers knows a thing or two about being a leader. She was selected for an elite annual leadership program at Wesleyan aimed at helping students develop their leadership skills. She hopes that the positive changes she instituted as a student leader at Wesleyan will continue to leave an impact.

She is currently pursuing her Ph.D in social psychology at Baylor University and said her faith will inform her work as a researcher and professor down the road.

“My churches have always emphasized the inherent worth of individuals as God’s beloved creations, and I think this respect for other people is naturally transferred to any sort of career. However, it may be particularly relevant in regards to mentoring students and evaluating human research participants.

“I hope to design research projects which will not only increase scientific knowledge but will also have some positive effect on human lives.”

Julie Dwyer, general church content editor, United Methodist Communications

One of six churchwide Special Sundays with offerings of The United Methodist Church, United Methodist Student Day calls the church to support students as they prepare for life in uniting faith with knowledge. The special offering provides scholarships for qualified United Methodist applicants. 

When you give generously on United Methodist Student Day, you support students as they prepare for life in uniting faith with knowledge. Give now.

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