Daryl Joy Walters grew up in a middle-class family in Shreveport, Louisiana.
She loved fishing and riding horses. Her father owns a trucking company, so she was fortunate to be able to travel the country and the world with him.
Because of those experiences, she says, she often felt misunderstood by her peers.
"My worldview was just a lot different than from someone, maybe, who has never traveled outside of the state," she says.
Walters recently graduated from Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, with a degree in religion and philosophy. The school is one of the 11 Historically Black Colleges and Universities supported by The United Methodist Church through its Black College Fund.
Walters says she always knew she would attend a historically black college. She was attracted to Wiley's reputation as a Christian institution and to its acapella choir.
"Traveling with the acapella choir across the United States every single weekend has to be the most memorable experience (from my time) at Wiley College," she says.
The group sang at United Methodist churches, festivals, choir camps and for the annual conference.
"One thing (I can say) about Wiley College: We might be small in number, but we are big at heart. In everything we do, we do it big. And when we go out into the world, we still do it big," she says.
Walters is continuing her education at Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey, where she's pursuing a Master of Divinity.
"Wiley College prepared me because the religion department is one of the most rigorous environments," she says, "and it's a good thing … My professors gave me the opportunity to not only study hard — and I mean study hard — they taught me how to put together sermons. And it was a very nurturing time."
She says The United Methodist Church should continue to support the Black College Fund because it teaches students "how to be world leaders and agents of change."
One way Walters is affecting change is through her work with FaithLink, a company that helps formerly incarcerated individuals transition back into society through employment, education and other avenues.
Walters plans to pursue her doctorate degree and return to Wiley to be a professor — and that's just the beginning.
"I'm going to write books. I'm going to do it all. I'm still gonna be here for the returning citizens and running for office and encouraging people to run for office. And that's just life."
She says the influence that the church and the Black College Fund is having on students like her and the legacy it's leaving for the next generation is amazing.
"You're going to produce just world-renowned individuals, COs of Fortune 500 companies, the next president of the United States, nonprofit executive leaders. You're going to have that because of what you all gave to those students who did not have," Walters says.
"We thank The United Methodist Church just for giving us this opportunity. It means more than you will ever know."
Julie Dwyer, general church content editor, United Methodist Communications
One of seven apportioned giving opportunities of The United Methodist Church, the Black College Fund provides financial support to maintain solid, challenging academic programs; strong faculties; and well-equipped facilities at 11 United Methodist-related historically black colleges and universities. Please encourage your leaders and congregations to support the Black College Fund apportionment at 100 percent.