From a young age, Bradley Whittemore has been moved by the music at his local United Methodist church.
Sitting on his mother's lap as a child, he began conducting the choir from his seat in the pews. "I stood up on her lap and began waving my arms around, conducting the music along with the singers. Such was the start of my many musical experiences through the church," he said.
Today, as a student at Ithaca College in New York, Whittemore is still conducting music, making his own and studying ways to bring music to local communities. "The United Methodist Church was preparing me for my career from day one, even though I didn't realize it," he said.
Whittemore taught himself guitar when he was in the eighth grade so that he could play in the conference's youth praise band. He later used those skills at his own church, Greece United Methodist Church, in Rochester, New York, helping to lead songs in Sunday school for youth and as a musical performer.
He also had the opportunity to travel around the world for United Methodist youth events. "I became steeped in a deep, connected network of people who opened my eyes to the world and taught me more than I could have ever asked for," he said.
When he returned, he shared the lessons he learned with fellow United Methodists during sermons and informal presentations at conferences. "It was an honor to get to share my story and to give back to others, especially those who had supported my experiences along the way."
That support includes receiving a Gift of Hope scholarship. The money comes from the United Methodist Student Day offering, one of the six Special Sundays of The United Methodist Church.
"This scholarship changed my life because it helped make my dream of receiving a top-class collegiate education a reality," said Whittemore, who is studying music and arts administration at Ithaca. "This scholarship has helped put my mind to ease and lifted some of that weight from my shoulders. I cannot be more grateful."
He said the church should continue to support United Methodist Student Day to help young people like him pursue an education and follow their dreams.
"Every dollar truly helps. While you might never know the true impact that it will have, rest assured that you are supporting the development of someone, somewhere, who could not be more thankful for your donation."
Whittemore said he plans to stay involved in the church and use his faith as he embarks on his career.
"Regardless of where my life takes me geographically, I know that I will always find a way to be involved in my local church. … I know that I have so much I can give back to my community, whether as a soloist, member in the praise band, singer in the church choir, or even as the choir's director," he said.
"I am forever indebted to The United Methodist Church and cannot wait to begin giving back, using the talents that this scholarship helped me cultivate."
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.
When you give generously on United Methodist Student Day, you support students as they prepare for life in uniting faith with knowledge. Give now.