Discovering her best self in a nursing career is Meagan Simmons' dream. The Gift of Hope Scholar has learned already that patience, love and compassion will take precedence over the very necessary book learning.
Your gifts on United Methodist Student Day, enables The United Methodist Church to support students as they prepare for life in uniting faith with knowledge.
"God reminds me every day of my blessings," she said. Perhaps the biggest blessing is her biological family – her twin brother Sam and their parents, Chris and Valerie. Running a close second is her church family, people bound together in faith.
"Growing up," she said, "I was truly happy with the community I was involved in through my family, our church and the people of Crowley, Texas, who contributed to my growth as a person. I was able to face the challenges of life, knowing I have a village to back me up.
"The United Methodist Church raised me. I went to preschool at First UMC in Crowley, Texas, which led to Sunday school and youth group."
Simmons was thrilled when she was old enough to join the youth group. "I made my closest and lifelong friends and was given the privilege to attend countless mission trips and retreats," she said. "Growing up, there were always challenges – financially and even the transition to high school – but if I didn't have my friends and family to support me, I would not be the person I am today."
In church, she said, she found the freedom to be herself. When she decided to go to Texas State University in San Marcos, the congregation assured her that they would always be there for her. "That," she explained, "is why I love the people of The United Methodist Church. They are the kindest people I've had the privilege of knowing in my life."
Simmons' youth director, Jenna Reinke, cautioned her about the expenses of higher education and encouraged her to apply for a Gift of Hope Scholarship, supported by generous gifts on the annual United Methodist Student Day.
"It was so much help!" Simmons exclaimed. "Receiving the scholarship reminds me of who we are as The United Methodist Church and as Christians." The scholarship helped with purchasing textbooks so she was not forced to add to the financial burden of student loans.
"I have grown this first semester of school," she said. "God has put so many new people into my life. They truly bring out the best in me, and, for that, I am eternally grateful.
"Texas State University has allowed me to experience diversity," Simmons noted. Knowing she will encounter a wide variety of people in her career, she said she is "learning how to communicate with people in a whole new way."
By nurturing her faith, Simmons believes she will continue to make a difference in the world.
"I hope to become even more of a leader in my local church," she said, "and mix my passion for missions with my career of nursing. I think I will be able to express my very best self in this setting."
Barbara Dunlap-Berg, freelance writer and editor, United Methodist Communications retiree
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.