Ohio Wesleyan University has received a $600,000 grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to establish a summer institute that will work to prepare high school students to become Christian leaders for a global society, according to OWU officials.
The four-year grant is part of Lilly Endowment’s High School Youth Theology Institutes, an initiative created to encourage young people to explore theological traditions, ask questions about the moral dimensions of contemporary issues, and examine how their faith calls them to lives of service, officials said.
“Ohio Wesleyan is honored to receive a Lilly Endowment grant to help high school students turn their calls to service into plans of action,” said Ohio Wesleyan President Rock Jones. “We know the need for such programs is great because we see it expressed over and over again in the essays of students who seek to enroll at Ohio Wesleyan. They hunger for integrity, purpose and meaning. Our summer institute will help give shape and substance to their aspirations while simultaneously cultivating a new generation of morally and spiritually grounded leaders.”
Ohio Wesleyan’s institute, set to begin in 2017, will enroll up to 50 Ohio high school juniors and seniors each summer through 2020. Each weeklong session will feature daily academic classes and applied practicums, along with worship, reflective discussion and journaling.
OWU’s institute will be led by university Chaplain Jon Powers (program director) and Associate Chaplain Mary Jeffries (program dean) and involve Department of Religion professors Blake Michael and David Eastman, as well as select university staff. In addition, four Ohio Wesleyan students will be chosen each summer to serve as student leader interns for the program, helping to further their own interests in global servant-leadership.
The initiative also will involve community partners including the Methodist Theological School in Ohio; Coalition for Christian Outreach; Asbury United Methodist Church; Habitat for Humanity, Delaware County; West Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church; Holy Family Parish; and Church for All People.
According to Lilly Endowment, Ohio Wesleyan is one of 92 private four-year colleges and universities selected to participate in the nationwide High School Youth Theology Institutes initiative. The schools are located in 30 states and the District of Columbia.
Although some are independent, many of the colleges and universities reflect the religious heritage of their founding traditions, including Baptist, Brethren, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, Presbyterian and Reformed churches, as well as Roman Catholic, non-denominational, Pentecostal and historic African-American Christian communities.
“These colleges and universities are well-positioned to reach out to high school students in this way,” said Christopher L. Coble, vice president for religion at the endowment. “They have outstanding faculty in theology and religion who know how to help young people explore the wisdom of religious traditions and apply these insights to contemporary challenges.”
Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family – J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons J.K. Jr. and Eli – through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company.
Information for this story was provided by Ohio Wesleyan University.