Leading with God's light

Gift of Hope Scholarship recipient Mary Nance embraced learning from an early age.

"My family took many planned and spontaneous day trips and vacations. In everything that my brother (Craig) and I did growing up, whether it was an extracurricular activity, just playing in the backyard at home, or on a family vacation, our parents always made sure we were learning something from our experiences," she says.

Today, she continues that passion for learning as a student at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The 20-year-old junior from Belmont, North Carolina, says her United Methodist upbringing has played an important role in her life.

"The Methodist church has had a huge impact on my personal growth. I don't think I realized until I moved away to college just how much it did impact me. Growing up with guidance from Methodist values and mentors from my home church (First United Methodist Church of Belmont) has provided me with good examples of what it means to lead a Christian lifestyle," she says.

When she was struggling with choosing a major, her friends at school prayed for and with her, she says. "It just hit me that God was calling me to be a teacher."

She believes her Christian ideals will help in her chosen career. "I'll try to keep an open mind and have a listening ear for when students are struggling," she says.

Since leaving for school, Nance says her faith has only grown stronger.

"I've always heard that people fall in their faith through their college years. However, I feel that in the past year especially, I've grown as a person, and it's all due to my personal faith growth. I am becoming a better listener, learning to be present and intentional in relationships vs. focusing solely on my own problems and myself. This is a small contribution to the world at large, but I feel like it's equally important.

"I want to make sure I'm always learning, and learning about things that are important to me," she says.

She also wants to share that knowledge. This fall, she will co-lead a small group for the Wesley Foundation at UNC.

"It will be a small group for first-year girls who are adjusting to the college lifestyle. I'm excited to start this, because although I'll have a leadership position, I know I'll be doing a lot of learning as well," she says.

The United Methodist Student Day Gift of Hope Scholarship is helping her fulfill God's calling to learn, lead and teach.

"More than monetary value, the scholarship has helped me see that people are always willing to help others. Receiving a gift such as this one inspires me to give to others as well, to keep a cycle of Christian love and giving steady."

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.