Learning, Emma Virden has discovered, opens many doors. As a child growing up in Wellsville, Ohio, Emma especially enjoyed English, history, math and science. "Being a shy kid," she said," I enjoyed activities such as reading, drawing and playing music."
Emma's parents divorced when she was 5 and her sister was 3. "My mom," Emma recalled, "always made sure that we worked hard toward our goals and never gave up. I was lucky enough to have support throughout my childhood from both sides of my family, and many of my family members today continue to support me."
Now a student at Ohio Northern University in Ada, Emma spent a lot of time at Wellsville United Methodist Church in Ohio. She and her sister participated in youth group, and Emma became involved in the district in middle and high school. "I served six years on the Mahoning Valley District Youth Council, two years as a representative, two years as secretary and one year as president," she said. "In 2012, I completed my training to become a certified lay servant."
In high school, Emma explored a variety of subjects – chemistry and human anatomy one year, criminal justice and forensic science the next. "These experiences," she noted, "helped shape my interests in college."
As Emma approached high school graduation, she applied for United Methodist financial aid and was excited to receive a Gift of Hope scholarship sponsored by offerings collected on United Methodist Student Day Sunday.
Your gifts on United Methodist Student Day, enables The United Methodist Church to supports the Gift of Hope Scholarship so that students can prepare for life in uniting faith with knowledge.
"This scholarship," she said, "has helped me tremendously. College is expensive, and when it comes to paying tuition, any dollar amount is a great help. This scholarship cut my loan amount this year nearly in half and has given me a peace of mind."
A psychology major with a minor in criminal justice, Emma hopes to go to graduate school. Her goal is to study forensic psychology to become an expert witness for criminal trials or a prison psychologist. "I haven't completely thrown out the option of law school," she added. "I am a part of ONU's Mock Trial team, which is all about simulating what a real trial would be like (both civil and criminal). I was also recently hired as a lab assistant in a psychology research study on fear generalization."
No matter which career path Emma chooses, she is confident, she said, "that my faith will help keep me grounded, even when times get tough. I also have a goal of one day going into prison ministry. My ultimate goal is not only to treat individuals psychologically but also to point them in the right direction and show them the unconditional love of Jesus Christ."
United Methodists celebrate Student Day on the last Sunday in November. The churchwide special offering supports United Methodist scholarships and the United Methodist Student Loan Fund. Please give generously!
Barbara Dunlap-Berg, freelance writer and editor, retired from UMCom
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.