Recent college graduate Holly Dammann says she had a blessed childhood, with loving parents and a supportive church family.
She loved school and strived to do well, encouraged by her mother and father. Her mom is the church secretary at Cornerstone United Methodist Church in Miami and her dad worked as an oceanographer for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
"Education was always very important in my family because my father was the first in his family to go to college and my mother did not complete college," she says. "Both of my parents always encouraged my (older) sister and me to work hard in school and finish college."
Dammann also was very involved in the church, taking part in children's choirs, youth groups and other activities. "The United Methodist Church has been pivotal in my upbringing. I have always had a supportive and loving church family that encouraged me to live out my faith daily."
She would need to lean on that faith as a teenager when her father was diagnosed with prostate cancer, first when she was in the ninth grade and again two years later.
"When his cancer came back … our lives became very different. My father had an aggressive cancer and started chemotherapy that year. He was in and out of the hospital and it was challenging to continue life as normal. My family did everything we could to support my dad … (He) passed away in January, 2011."
While life without him has been difficult for Dammann, there is no doubt her dad would be proud of her accomplishments. A United Methodist Student Day Gift of Hope Scholarship recipient, she graduated from the University of Florida in Gainesville in December. She says the scholarship helped her pursue the education that was so important to her and her father.
"This scholarship gave me the peace of mind to focus on my education rather than focusing on how I am going to pay for it. … United Methodist Student Day allows for the church to support its young adults in a pivotal way and I am thankful for that."
Dammann's upbringing in the church also helped her make the decision to change majors.
"When I started college … I wanted to be a part of a loving and faith-driven community like (at home). I attended Gator Wesley Foundation my first Sunday of school and found that community."
She remained involved with the campus ministry throughout college.
"I learned a lot about the work nonprofit organizations do worldwide and this interest eventually led me to change my major from industrial engineering to family, youth and community sciences with a minor in nonprofit leadership. I decided I wanted to help people in a direct way," she says.
Thanks to the United Methodist Student Day scholarship, Dammann has the tools she needs to fulfill her dream of "working to improve impoverished communities."
"I believe by working with people to make their lives better, I am making a difference in this world. I believe by letting God guide my life and my actions, I am making a difference."
Julie Dwyer, general church content editor, United Methodist Communications
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.
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