Goshen College received $600,000 from the Lilly Endowment Foundation in early December to establish a Study-Service Theology Term.
Starting in the summer of 2017, this offshoot of GC’s nationally recognized Study-Service Term program will provide a group of 20 diverse high school students interested in theology and ministry with an opportunity to study for two weeks in Guatemala or another Latin American country. Upon returning, the students will be required to do service within a congregation or church-related organization.
Priority will be given to high school junior and senior students from the Latino and African-American communities, either locally or from around the nation.
This program is being described as a mini-SST.
Keith Graber Miller, professor of Bible, religion, and philosophy, has led nine SST units with his family.
“I’m hoping we can create some of that same dynamic in this program while deepening and expanding students’ theological worldviews and sense of calling,” he said.
With SSTT, or S2T2, Graber Miller will serve as the program director—the person “responsible for making the program run.”
Tom Meyers, director of international education, will work alongside Graber Miller as the grant administrator. Meyers will oversee the program and report to the Lilly Foundation while Graber Miller will be teaching.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for high school students to gain their first taste of SST,” said Meyers. “Students will gain insight into an understanding of theology from the perspective of people in the developing world.”
Richard Aguirre, director of corporate and foundation relations, highlighted the Lilly Foundation’s attempt to nurture the faith of young people. “The students who go through this program will have a chance to sort through the issues of faith and get ahead on sorting through what they want to do with their lives,” said Aguirre. “Because of this grant, GC can provide a potentially life changing opportunity for 60 young people.”
But this program isn’t going to benefit only these students; GC is also hoping to recruit more students for enrollment through this opportunity.
“The more creative we can be to bring in revenue and recruits, the better and stronger the institution is,” said Aguirre. “This is an indication that the college wants to provide the best education possible in creative ways.”
Even though there’s potential to gain recruits, attending GC is not a requirement for students to participate, and the institution is realistic in that not every participant will choose GC.
“We do think that those interested in this would be interested in GC,” said Aguirre. “Students with the mindset to do service and go to the developing world…might consider GC.”
“I think that, overall, this program is wonderful for GC,” said Graber Miller. “It grows rather organically out of who we are as an institution—one rooted in a Christian tradition, one committed to the value of international education and one seeking even more cultural diversity.”
The interaction between these students and the GC student body is virtually nonexistent, but Meyers said, “There will be opportunities for a GC student and a seminary student (from AMBS) to serve as mentors for the program.”
Aguirre also mentioned that they are interested in recommendations from current students on youth that should
Graber Miller said, “I think it’s good for young people, for the church of the future, and for the college.”