The Exploring Gifts and Graces program, now underway at B-CU, is presenting high school students with skills to help them beyond school.
BY ANDREAS BUTLER
High school juniors and seniors from all over Florida are in Daytona Beach this month, participating in the Exploring Gifts and Graces: Summer Adventure in Theology and Leadership program.
The nine-day program being held at Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) started on July 15.
Called EGG, the program is run through B-CU’s Youth Institute of Theology at the School of Religion headed by Dr. Randolph Bracy, the university’s dean.
During the Christian-focused program, the students learn about leadership, social skills, teamwork, and college life.
Making a difference
“This is our second year doing the program it has grown and progressed. We are in the business of letting kids explore God and helping them find what he has in store for them but also learn their own gifts,’’ Dr. David Blow, the program facilitator, told the Daytona Times. Blow also is an adjunct professor at B-CU and a youth minister at Mt. Calvary Baptist Church in Palm Coast.
“This allows them to make a difference in the world and not just change an individual but an entire generation,’’ Blow remarked.
He continued, “We want to mold people who will stand out and be different. We want those who can make a difference in the world. We want to help kids go out on the right path and encourage others to do the same.’’
The EGG program was funded by a $600,000 grant from the Lily Foundation, Inc.
The college experience
An important element of EGG is college preparation. More than 50 students are getting the college experience this summer by living and learning on campus during the nine days.
“We tell the parents this is their time to book a cruise. The kids are as precious to us as they are to you. They sleep on campus in brand-new dorms, live and eat and get the actual college experience,” explained Rev. Dr. Deborah Henson-Governor, B-CU’s Youth Theological Institute’s Exploring Gifts and Graces project coordinator of the grant.
She noted the importance of college prep.
“We have a program that we partnered with Daytona State College to help with writing composition, which helps with college applications. Their system is worldwide. We hope that all students attend school, especially Bethune-Cookman University,’’ said Henson-Governor.
“Some of the students attending have already been accepted to UCF (University of Central Florida). Our ultimate goal is that they attend an institution of higher learning.’’
For the students who attended the program, it has been a good experience.
Siblings David Jenkins and Leah Jenkins both will be seniors at Freedom High School in Tampa.
“It’s been pretty enjoyable and interesting. I’ve also learned how to support myself and other students in addition to learning about Christ,” David said.
Leah added, “In the beginning, I wasn’t that comfortable interacting with everyone. I learned about myself through God as well as how to interact and work with other people.”
Jan West will be a senior at Santa Fe High in Gainesville in the fall; she has attended the program for two straight years.
She stated, “It’s pretty good camp. We’re included in everything. They don’t allow us to be excluded. We get involved with each other and in activities and we make friends and discover what we want to be in life.”
Those involved with the program believe it’s important to provide positive outlets for youth.
Henson-Governor explained, “This program definitely helps with their self-esteem, relationships and social skills. We get a lot of students that are introverts and we hope that they become extroverts by the time that they leave. They are learning about God. We focus on Christianity, but we also have people of other faiths.”
Students had to apply for the program and explain why they wanted to participate.
“It’s a tough selection process. We have so many wonderful applicants. The entire staff reviewed the applications. Some students came back after last year,’’ Blow noted.
Several ministers taught classes, seminars and workshops during the EEG camp, including Blow’s wife, Dr. Danita Blow; Rev. Constance Pope, Deborah and Dr. Alice Wood, the program director.
There were also 15 ambassadors that are Bethune-Cookman students who served as counselors. Ambassadors, who assist students in the dorms, were trained early in safety and CPR.
“It’s an eye opener. Not only the kids don’t know much about the Bible, but it’s a lot of other life skills that they will need to know to help them succeed. Our job is to guide them through the program, take them where they need to know and assist them with what they need,” said Ebony West, one of the ambassadors.
Rachelle Coleman, another ambassador, is in her second year with the program. She graduated from B-CU in May with a degree in Mass Communications studies.
“It’s a good program. The difference between the kids is notable. We had one kid that never talked on the first day and by a few days they talk to everyone about everything all the time. Many kids end up coming out of their anti-social shells and start being comfortable dealing with others,’’ Coleman remarked.