"Nothing is better than walking into a building filled with joy and surrounded by friends and family eager to engage in fellowship. … This church is where I was baptized, where I attended Sunday school, made my confirmation, began working in the church nursery and later became a Sunday school teacher and worship team member. When I enter my church, I feel at peace. It is truly my second home and houses my second family (church friends)," she says.
Her work with children at the church helped inspire her career path. She says she discovered her passion for education and working one-on-one with kids, led her to pursue a degree in speech pathology.
"When I began working in the church nursery and youth programs, I would cry when I would have to miss a week. The excitement of the children as they learned the stories of the Old and New Testament was a beautiful sight," she says.
Fonte's church upbringing also is helped her navigate college life and grow in her faith, even though Nazareth College in Rochester, New York, is not a Christian school.
"[Last] year, I struggled to fit in a college culture that encourages partying and dating. Through prayer and networking of other Christians, I was able to assist in starting the first Fellowship of Christian Athletes club at Nazareth. Through this strong support group, I have grown in my faith and have even begun to be a disciple for Christ through Bible study and outreach. … I aspire to be the light on campus," Fonte says.
While on break last summer, she continued to be a light by mentoring a younger church member "to help her to grow in her love of Christ," she says.
Fonte received the Gift of Hope scholarship, which is funded by the United Methodist Student Day offering, and says she is grateful for the support. "The scholarship has afforded me the opportunity to concentrate on becoming a well-rounded individual instead of working to pay for tuition. I was able to achieve my goal of a 4.0 [in the 2016 Spring] semester, something that I am very proud of," she says.
While she plans to become a certified speech language pathologist, working with students with developmental or medical disabilities, she also hopes to take on more leadership roles at her church in the future, with the possibility of teaching or running the youth program someday, she says.
"I believe that all my actions in this world should reflect those of Christ. … The church has given me my life, my hope and my family, and now it is my turn to shape the lives of the congregation's next generation."
Julie Dwyer, general church content editor, United Methodist Communications
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