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Chronic illness, learning differences don't deter Ethnic Scholar

Dillon Kennedy had two major challenges growing up in tiny, rural Sunnyvale, Texas.

"I was quite ill with Crohn's disease, requiring me to withdraw from school a semester," Dillon explained. Crohn's is a chronic inflammatory disease of the gastrointestinal tract. "I had four surgeries while a college student. Additionally, I struggled due to dyslexia. My two challenges provided the drive I needed to excel academically, thus providing me with my joy of being named to the dean's list five semesters."

Dillon describes Sunnyvale as "not very diverse," with "few people who look like me."

"I was raised in a God-loving home," he said. "I lived with my mother, father and brother. I had an extended family, which included my maternal grandparents, an uncle and a godmother. My parents always encouraged education and a relationship with the Lord. I have been an active member of St. Luke Community United Methodist Church in Dallas my entire life."

Dillon was grateful for the opportunity to spend his junior and senior years in the nation's highest-ranking performing arts high school in Dallas – Booker T. Washington. Today, he is a student at Columbia College in Chicago.

He also was thankful to receive an Ethnic Scholarship, made possible by generous gifts on World Communion Sunday. Stress, Dillon noted, exacerbates the effects of Crohn's. "Receiving the scholarship," he said, "helped improve my health by relieving some of the stress associated with worrying about finances."mino

Throughout Dillon's life, The United Methodist Church has provided a firm foundation. "The church," he said, "encouraged me that, no matter what field I choose, I can be a disciple of Christ and improve someone else's life." He also appreciates that the scholarship enables more racial ethnic students to attend college.

Among Dillon's most memorable higher education experiences were making the dean's list and being chosen as the "face" of Columbia College and an ambassador for the school. He serves on the marketing team for Manifest, Columbia College Chicago's largest citywide art festival.

"The degree plan for music business and marketing," Dillon said, "has provided the tools for a career in the music industry. It has provided me with an essential basis in business to gain employment rather than be a starving artist as I advance in the music industry.

"I'm serving as an example of how faith and hard work can allow you to overcome any obstacle," the young man commented. "I will use my faith to inspire and influence others in my workplace."

Dillon has high hopes for the future. "Immediately upon graduation," he said, "I plan on continuing employment with a marketing firm in Chicago. I hope to apply for law school after working a few years. I aspire to be a CEO of an entertainment company. I was leaning toward studying entertainment law, but as injustices are on the rise, I am now considering becoming a civil rights attorney."

Barbara Dunlap-Berg, freelance writer and editor, retired from UMCom

One of six churchwide Special Sundays with offerings of The United Methodist Church, World Communion Sunday calls the church to reach out to all people and model diversity among God's children. The special offering provides World Communion Scholarships, the Ethnic Scholarship Program and the Ethnic In-Service Training Program.

When you give generously on World Communion Sunday, you equip gifted, qualified students from around the globe to become the world changers God created them to be. Give now.

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