Taylor Ansley Whitaker is the first in her family to graduate from a four-year university.
The Gift of Hope scholar earned her teaching degree from Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, Georgia.
She said The United Methodist Church helped her fulfill her dream to be a teacher.
"I would not have been able to pay for college without the help of this scholarship. Being a student teacher comes with extra costs — gas to drive to the elementary school in another county, supplies for lessons and money to take tests to be certified. This scholarship helped relieve some of the stress of paying for college."
Your support on the United Methodist Student Day Sunday helps fund the Gift of Hope Scholarships.
Whitaker said members of her home church, Salem United Methodist Church in Dearing, Georgia, have supported her in everything she has done.
"Many of the members would come to the school to see me in musicals and concerts. My first teaching experience was in the church. … This helped me to decide that I wanted to be a teacher."
She is currently working as a second grade teacher at an elementary school in Jones County, Georgia. She started in the county's school district as a long-term substitute for a special education teacher, where she traveled to first- and second-grade classrooms to give support to students struggling with learning disorders and developmental delays.
While student teaching during her senior year, Whitaker also discovered a new passion: sign language. "Half of the students in my class were in special education. They had a variety of disabilities. One child was deaf. I taught myself sign language to be able to communicate with him. I discovered I had a passion for sign language and working with deaf children," she said.
Her host teacher commended her for going above and beyond to communicate with her student. She continues to teach herself sign language and help others learn to sign through her YouTube Channel. She wants others to know the value of learning sign language.
Whitaker hopes to earn her master's degree in special education and to take the GACE Special Education Deaf Education assessment. She would like to be an interpreter one day.
Gifts on United Methodist Student Day help young people like Whitaker achieve their dreams and pursue new ones. Whitaker said her faith will continue to play an important role in her life.
"I am already spreading God's love to others in my school by showing the students that I care about them, and I want what is best for them. I am a positive role model for my students. Some might not have a positive Christian role model in their lives. When my students look at me, they will see a person that is kind, respectful and loving."
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.