This summer the University is helping a nonprofit, United Methodist-affiliated organization transform Nashville through the outreach of college students.
Project Transformation provides leadership development and ministry exploration opportunities to college-age young adults through immersion in churches in Middle Tennessee’s low-income neighborhoods. The students, known as young adult interns, coordinate free eight-week summer day camps for children in four under-served Nashville neighborhoods. Project Transformation helps churches to fill the void in ministries that resonate with young adults and allows the students to have transformational experiences to help them figure out how their career goals align with God’s plan.
The inaugural class consists of 25 young adult interns from 12 states, including Colorado, Florida, Washington as well as a few Belmont students.
Belmont University has assisted the organization, which started in North Texas, in growing roots in Middle Tennessee, said Courtney Aldrich, executive director of Project Transformation. The University is providing summer housing for the young adult interns and hosted a Friday Experience seminar in the University Ministries lounge.
“When we began to explore this, we knew that to make this possible we would need to have a university partner with us. One of the first things we did was meet with Belmont because we know that Belmont has a heart for social justice. That was the first door that God really opened that would enable us to take another step forward with this vision,” she said.
Aldrich continued, “This is to create a space for them to not only to serve the community, but also to learn more about poverty and what it means to be part of a diverse Christian community and explore how God is calling them into ministry as social workers, through mission work or as CEO of a corporation.”
During the Friday Experience at Belmont last week, Associate University Minister Christy Ridings, Dean of Religion Darrell Gwaltney and Vice President of Spiritual Development Todd Lake spoke to the group to give staff, academic and administrative perspectives, respectively, on vocation.
“One thing we do is help students think intentionally. We live in an age where students are trying to figure out what their calling is,” said Ridings. “Vocation is the idea that God has created us in a way to meet who we are with who the world is. This is where our deepest gladness and the world’s deepest hunger meet.”
Morgan Stafford, a Belmont junior from Erin, Tenn., studying marketing, said the Friday Experiences helped him narrow his career goals to nonprofit work and youth ministry.
Other Friday Experiences included a lecture from former Dollar General chief executive officer Cal Turner Jr. and visits to United Methodist Communications and Global Outreach Development.
“It has been a great experience. I have learned a lot about myself, the way I interact with other people and the values of patience and teamwork,” Stafford said. “This has been a very humbling experience to work in a disadvantaged community and with children. It has been rewarding and very eye-opening.”