Memphis Wesley Foundation expands to become multi-campus student organization
The student leadership internship program at Memphis Wesley has continued to expand through a scholarship fund thanks to financial support from individuals and local churches throughout the Memphis Conference and beyond. (Submitted photo)
By Morgan Stafford
Executive Director, Memphis Wesley Foundation
Cross-Cultural Strategist, Metro District
While the COVID-19 pandemic may have led Memphis Wesley Foundation to transition most ministries online, the pandemic has not prevented the campus ministry from reaching more students through a new strategic initiative to become a multi-campus student organization.
In May 2020, the Memphis Wesley board of directors approved a plan to launch this new initiative. Executive Director Morgan Stafford partnered with current student leaders, board members, pastors and faculty and staff across multiple campuses. Eliza Ford, a recent graduate of the University of Memphis and lifelong member at Brownsville First UMC, was hired part-time as graduate leadership intern and associate director of outreach. Ford and Stafford began identifying potential student leaders to help launch the new efforts at each campus.
Three students were hired to join the expanded student leadership team through paid internships:
- Katie-Ann Miller, sophomore at Rhodes College in Memphis
- Kayla Wright, junior at LeMoyne-Owen College in Memphis
- Leslie Curry, junior at Christian Brothers University in Memphis
As a student leadership intern, Curry has helped connect several students at Christian Brothers University to the ministries of Memphis Wesley even during a season of continued social distancing. “Being an intern for Wesley has given me the opportunity to connect with young adults around the Memphis area and inspire others to become engaged,” said Curry.
Memphis Wesley connected with Katie-Ann Miller, sophomore at Rhodes College, through partner organization MICAH, Memphis Interfaith Coalition for Action and Hope. “I decided to become an intern at Memphis Wesley after meeting Morgan and Eliza. They were genuinely good people who told me all about the work and community building that Memphis Wesley is doing and I wanted to be a part of such an amazing group,” said Miller.
As an international student, Miller has completed her internship remotely while living at home in Jamaica this semester. For Miller, “It's been difficult living in a different country when all of Memphis Wesley's volunteer and outreach activities and the other interns are in Memphis, but I've still been able to connect with other students on Zoom, Google Meet, and GroupMe. Everyone at Memphis Wesley has been so nice and accommodating in trying to include me in activities.”
When asked what Miller wished every student at Rhodes College could hear about Memphis Wesley, she shared, “I wish that students at Rhodes could truly understand how open, honest, and genuine this community is. It's always been hard for me to connect with campus ministry organizations because their values have not always aligned with mine, but Memphis Wesley is very inclusive and advocates for social justice. This group really believes in the humanity of individuals and is always helping members to better ourselves.”
Over 25 partner churches in the Metro District of the Memphis Conference of The United Methodist Church have supported Memphis Wesley in the past year through generous financial support and (before the pandemic) free meals for students. The students of Memphis Wesley give back to these churches by serving alongside their members through community outreach projects and sharing about their experiences as young adult leaders.
In addition to support from local churches, the Metro District has provided invaluable support to Memphis Wesley. Rev. Dr. Deborah B. Smith, Metro District superintendent, believes that Memphis Wesley “gives us a glimpse of what religious diversity could and should look like in action when young adults come together in unity to serve others.” According to Dr. Smith, “This is why we need to share this model as an absolute example as to how we all can cast a wider net to draw others to the love and peace found in Jesus Christ.”
HOW TO INVEST IN YOUNG ADULT LEADERS
Thank you to the Memphis Conference (and future Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference) family for your support of Memphis Wesley. To invest in these college students and young adult leaders, give online at www.wesleymemphis.org or by check to Memphis Wesley Foundation, 3625 Midland Ave. Memphis, TN 38111.