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Undergraduate scholarships for PC(USA) students produce dividends of dreams and hopes

College senior plans to write books for children, teens on multiracial identity

by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service

Lauren Holly (center) says she’ll be “forever grateful” for undergraduate scholarships she received from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (Contributed photo)

LOUISVILLE — University of Minnesota senior Lauren Holly hopes to write children’s books about multiracial/multicultural identities, as well as books for teens and young adults to help them discover their identity and who they are as children of God.

Holly, who received a Student Opportunity Scholarship from Presbyterian Mission Agency’s Financial Aid for Service, is fascinated by the topic of identity — particularly as she reflects on her own multiracial identity. That includes who she was and is now , how she came to be, what has changed and who she hopes to be in the future.

“I want to create the materials I wish I had growing up,” says Holly, who is currently searching for a full-time position in communications.

Her post-graduation plans include pursuing a graduate degree in communications, but for now she is focused on her desire to engage in thoughtful, meaning work.  She hopes one day to return to Ukraine to work with the Roma people, which she’s had the opportunity to do twice through church service projects. The Roma people, she says, have been historically and continually discriminated against — and are living in desolate conditions.

“We’ve served them by installing water filtration systems, teaching about basic hygiene and providing supplies,” she said.  “And by simply being with them — worshiping, talking and playing with the children.”

Her dream is to return one day and be a part of providing stable housing and clean water to the Roma people, helping them build up their lives through job and food security and by improving educational opportunities. Her experiences in Ukraine taught her to take time to try to better understand people, to empathize with them and to learn how to share and spread human connection.

“I think we get so caught up in our materialist world that we forget about things that truly matter,” she says. “We have lost some of our human connection to all the wondrous technologies that are ever present in our lives.”

Holly admits her faith has changed a lot while in college, where she found herself challenged to find a community of faith that was the right fit. Many of the groups she encountered at school felt unfamiliar, or too intense — and she didn’t always feel welcome in those places.

But gradually she began to recognize that faith was more than just going to a place of worship every Sunday.  She began volunteering at a Salvation Army soup kitchen — finding a faith community there — and at Feed My Starving Child, which she said felt meaningful to her.

Books like James H. Cone’s “Martin & Malcolm & America: A Dream or a Nightmare” also began to transform her thinking about who she is as both a multiracial person and a person of faith.

“It was illuminating for me not just to the past,” she says, “but as a way of understanding why we are the way we are now. I would argue both of these men’s messages are more relevant now than ever.”

Holly said she’s grateful to have been part of a PC(USA) faith community, adding that she felt loved and supported by her home church even while away at college. Having been given the opportunity to apply for and receive a Student Opportunity Scholarship, she plans on staying connected as she moves into her post-graduation life.

“I’ll be forever grateful,” she says. “Being part of the PC(USA) is very meaningful to me. I hope to be able to stay involved and give back.”

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) students who have finished at least one year of college are encouraged to apply for a Student Opportunity Scholarship. Preference is given to racial ethnic students. Applications for the National Presbyterian College Scholarship are also being accepted from students entering as full-time freshmen at PC(USA)-related colleges and universities.  The Native American Education Grant is for PC(USA) members of Native American or Alaska Native Tribes enrolled full-time at any accredited college or university in the U.S. Awards of up to $4,000 are available in each of these undergraduate opportunities.

Graduate students enrolled full-time at PC(USA) seminaries in either a Master of Divinity  or Master of Arts in Christian Education program are encouraged to apply for the Presbyterian Study Grant, with awards of up to $5,000.

Deadline for all applications is June 15. Click here to begin the application process.

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