Joshua Steptoe feels right at home at Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas.
The new father said he immediately felt a family vibe on campus.
"I could talk to my teachers. I'm not just another number. I'm actually someone who is worth their time. That alone has helped me in so many ways. It feels like home here," he said.
The school is one of the 11 historically black colleges and universities supported by The United Methodist Church through its Black College Fund.
Steptoe is grateful for the bond between Huston-Tillotson and the church. He said that connection has allowed him to carry his faith with him on his journey.
"My faith has been nailed down to me by my mom, my grandmom, my dad. It's everywhere. Just knowing that no matter how hard it gets or how lonely it might seem, there's always a bigger power, someone always watching over me and helping me to be the person I want to be. And letting people know everything's gonna be OK. I can always pray up a storm and watch it change. I believe in taking my faith wherever I go. I believe you need something to root you in — something to believe in," he said.
His young daughter, Aiyanna, has made Steptoe even more determined to be a leader and positive role model, both at home and in his community. He said the school is helping him achieve that goal.
"It's molding me to be a leader — with all the classes and positions — it's like a family. They give you the opportunity to be something greater. … It's molding me to be the person I need to be, the person I want to be," he said.
Steptoe said he doesn't know where he would be without the help of the Black College Fund, and he encourages United Methodists to continue to give generously.
"We always say children or the youth are our future, so why would you not invest in the future? The people going to college now are the people who are going to be the doctors, politicians, who are the CEOs — the TV stars, even – why wouldn't you want to invest in your future?
"We as the church, we are the main ones who should be involved … It's so important for the church to support these young people to go forth with their dreams."
Steptoe's dreams include continuing to lead others on their faith journey. After spending a few years as youth minister at his home church, he currently leads the religious life program on campus.
"I've always felt I've been called to do something greater — bigger than what's on the inside or outside — what you see … I know it's gonna sound corny, but I honestly want to make a difference — not even in the conventional way. I want to open eyes for people who are around me: It's possible to go to college, to get the job you want.
"I want to be that beacon of hope in my community."
Julie Dwyer, general church content editor, United Methodist Communications
One of seven apportioned giving opportunities of The United Methodist Church, the Black College Fund provides financial support to maintain solid, challenging academic programs; strong faculties; and well-equipped facilities at 11 United Methodist-related historically black colleges and universities. Please encourage your leaders and congregations to support the Black College Fund apportionment at 100 percent.