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Single mom, committed church member juggles school and employment to better serve children during pandemic

Presbyterian scholarship helps make dreams a reality

by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service

Ellashia Spaulding worships at Memorial Presbyterian Church in Roosevelt, New York. (Contributed photo)

LOUISVILLE — Ellashia Spaulding is a committed lifelong member of Memorial Presbyterian Church in Roosevelt, New York, and is doing great things in her community.

Baptized at Memorial Presbyterian as a child, at 17 Spaulding was asking church leaders why they didn’t talk to the young people about what their roles should be in the church.

“Because I could be an elder, too,” she said. “You don’t have to be a certain age.”

Now 35 and a single mother of an 8-year-old, Spaulding serves as clerk of session, ruling elder and member of the personnel committee. She also volunteers for youth ministry and as a Vacation Bible School coordinator.

Spaulding has been employed in the charter school system for 16 years. During the pandemic, she began to see her daughter, Serenity-Rien, struggle, along with other children at the school where Spaulding works. Wanting to better understand how to help the children, she began to talk with school and church mentors who encouraged her to pursue her education.

So, she began taking online and hybrid classes at Monroe Community College (MCC) in Rochester and is on track to earn an associate of arts degree in human services in 2022.

Spaulding hopes to become a licensed social worker so that she can better identify the social, emotional and behavioral needs of young scholars. Those needs can interfere with their academics, Spaulding said.

“I want to create an environment for them to talk through their problems to assure them that I am available for them,” she said.

Ellashia Spaulding and her daughter Serenity-Rien pose with lifelong friends at Memorial Presbyterian Church after Spaulding’s ordination as a ruling elder. (Contributed photo)

Spaulding also sees herself as a commissioned ruling elder. Prior to her ordination, she wasn’t 100% comfortable leading Bible study, preaching or praying out loud. But she says God has changed all of that, and for the better. She’s had the opportunity to give two sermons and lead a Bible study and is learning about what it means to pray without ceasing. And she’s grown as a praise and worship leader at Memorial.

“I love being at church! The music — I love to sing,” she said.

Recently, Spaulding had a $1,700 payment to make to MCC to cover her tuition for this semester. She’d applied for a Presbyterian Scholarship for Undergraduates from Financial Aid for Service (FAFS) in the Presbyterian Mission Agency. When she hadn’t heard anything regarding her application, so she thought either there was a delay — or she wasn’t going to get the scholarship.

“I was telling myself, ‘Don’t worry about it,’” she said. “So, I prayed and put it in God’s house.”

Then as she was on her way home from work one evening, she saw the message come in on her phone. She’d received a $4,000 award from FAFS for the 2021–22 academic year. The $2,000 per semester gives her enough for other college expenses, like books.

In that moment, Spaulding said it felt like her work has not been in vain. During the pandemic, she helped launch her church’s digital worship service and balanced schoolwork, being a mom and employment at her charter school to better serve her community and the children struggling through this pandemic.

Ellashia Spaulding says she has grown as a praise and worship leader at Memorial Presbyterian Church in Roosevelt, New York. (Photo by Derrick Dingle)

“It’s just a good feeling to know my denomination supports me,” she said. “You know, I’m in community college, but I receive such joy from interacting with children.”

Presbyterian Mission associate Melonee Tubb says FAFS is ecstatic to support Spaulding as she seeks to further her education to give a new dimension to how she lives into her call.

“These Presbyterian scholarships are focused on helping students who are committed to their faith communities and living out Matthew 25 values,” Tubb said.

Financial Aid for Service encourages students across the PC(USA) to start thinking about ways they can serve their community, and what impact they can make between now and March 15, 2022, when the application for college and seminary students opens for the 2022–23 academic year.

You can find more information on the program’s guidelines here.

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