Gift of Hope scholar takes love of language to the classroom

Growing up in Wehnwood United Methodist Church, Altoona, Pennsylvania, Dennis Wilt was surrounded by a loving and supportive faith family.

"They made me feel like I was special," he said. "While I was able to have fun, I was also challenged to serve others and grow."

His mother, a Head Start teacher, and his father, an electrician for a local company, provided all the love and support Dennis, their only child, needed.

"I wish I could sufficiently thank [my parents] for that blessing," he said. "Certainly, I was able to have a joyous, long-lasting childhood."

Sometimes, however, Dennis found it difficult to connect with his peers in school. Living in a small town with limited transportation, he did not want to burden his family too often for rides, and his parents also restricted his activities outside the home. This made it more difficult to make friends.

However, Dennis was encouraged through his church family to look at the bigger picture – God. "That means I have a higher calling than my studies and my personal goals," he said. "I know God will mold me and place me where he needs me. I find comfort in knowing everything will work out."

Dennis' pastor encouraged him to apply for the Gift of Hope Scholarship, supported by generous gifts on United Methodist Student Day. The scholarship allowed him to attend Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. He is studying to teach German and Spanish on the high school level.

"After receiving the good news of the scholarship," Dennis recalled, "I contemplated how individual United Methodists had made it possible. They had the faith to make a donation for a promising student whom they felt would make a contribution to the greater work of The United Methodist Church. That kind of magnanimous charity has ignited in me the drive to emulate that spirit of charity in the future."

The opportunity to study and live in Mexico was exciting for Dennis. His love for the Spanish culture and language took him to a part of the world he never imagined. In Mexico, he took college courses, interned at a local elementary school and served as a camp counselor. "I loved that I could constantly practice Spanish in a variety of settings, mostly outside the classroom," he said.

Dennis believes The United Methodist Church should continue to support the Student Day offering. "It is the most effective way for United Methodists to make a lasting impression on those who reap the benefits," he said.

As a teacher, Dennis hopes to share his faith and be the example God wants him to be. "I will model Christ's love through my actions," he said. "I will listen to [people's] concerns and help them to the extent that is permissible. I will set the behavioral expectations that align with Christ's teachings."

At Juniata College, Dennis served as co-president of the Nourish International Chapter, treasurer of Christian Fellowship and presenter scheduler for Language in Motion, a nonprofit organization.

After graduation, Dennis hopes to make a difference in his local community. Already, he participates in several outreach ministries both at home and at college. "My positivity affects others," he said, "and I hope that continues in the future."

Dennis is considering seminary as a long-term goal. "I do not know if I would want to work as a pastor," he said, "but I feel I would grow from the experience."

Lladale Carey, web content producer, 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.