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Paying her way forward

Gift of Hope scholar Melissa Moulton – the only child of Julie Kuhns, a licensed clinical social worker, and David Moulton, a sportscaster – was rooted and grounded in the United Methodist tradition. Her maternal grandfather, the Rev. Gary Kuhns, was a United Methodist pastor. 

"I tell my parents often that if every child got to have the childhood I had, filled with love, support and a strong Christian background," she said, "there would not be any injustice in the world. My parents gave me the world full of opportunities but taught me about working hard for what you want from the get-go."

Growing up in a loving community of friends and the support of an amazing congregation, Cypress United Methodist Church in Fort Myers, Florida, Melissa pursued her passion – gymnastics.

During her junior year in high school, however, she suffered from gastroparesis, a condition that affects the stomach muscles and prevents proper stomach emptying. She saw firsthand how much her congregation loved her. Through prayers, visits and letters, Melissa beat her illness.

                 Melissa with a friend at Christmas.

Inspired by her community, Melissa decided to pursue a medical career. "I chose my major of exercise science and, later, physician's assistant school," she recalled. "This decision stemmed from my wanting to give back to others from a scientific aspect, so that I could attach a spiritual component that the church showed me during my illness."

Thanks to her youth pastor at Cypress Lake, Melissa was awarded a Gift of Hope scholarship from the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

"Receiving this scholarship," she said, "allowed me to attend college with a financial burden lifted."

With her financial award made possible by generous gifts on United Methodist Student Day, Melissa purchased textbooks for her classes.

"I didn't have to contemplate whether or not to purchase textbooks I needed for my classes, which are often the most vital component of a class [and] the first things left behind for college students because they are outrageously priced," she explained.

Attending the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, Melissa had a positive impact on a young man named Brandon. He enjoyed going to parties, drinking and skipping class. But thanks to Melissa, he turned his life around.

"Brandon began attending church with me," she said. "There was a powerful song played, and he gave his life to Christ. I cannot put into words how amazing that experience was.  We continue to read the Bible together and encourage each other."

When people give to the Student Day offering, she said, they "give us a little bit more free time that we would've had to spend working, and we can, in turn, minister to the field that is ready for harvest!"

In the honors college, Melissa is preparing to do extraordinary things. At UNF, Melissa has participated in various ministries and activities that will strengthen her career as a physician's assistant. She has mentored, conducted Bible classes, been a peer buddy and worked with refugees.

"I am making a difference in the world by being there for those around me," she said. "I have the blessing and responsibility of being a major encourager and contributor to spiritual formation of my friends."

Melissa looks forward to finishing her degree and getting accepted into a physician's assistant school in Florida.

But her goals don't stop there. Melissa also hopes to "embark on multiple mission trips and take a trip to the Holy Land," she said.

"I will use my faith throughout my career to pray over my patients silently," Melissa added, "and, when the time is right, pray with them. I will need to rely fully on God for strength in my profession as a medical provider. Finally, showing my co-workers who Jesus is through my actions and being a stronghold for them so we can all work as a cohesive unit will be a great stretch of faith."

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.