This fall, 20 Black College Fund (BCF) Lina H. McCord ambassadors will visit local churches between November 19 to 26 for the second annual BCF Thank You campaign. These visits serve as a means to thank congregations, provide a first-hand account of how BCF apportionment dollars are used and show why the church’s investment in the students matters. As future leaders of the church and world, BCF ambassadors are an elite group of students representing the fund and the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM). Each year students visit Annual Conferences to share the mission and ministry of BCF.
The impactful ambassador program has been changing students’ lives and connecting them with Annual Conferences and Jurisdictional Conferences for 36 years. In 1981, the first two student ambassadors were sent via a pilot program to the Northeastern Jurisdiction to participate in meetings. Since then, the program has touched countless lives and propelled those serving as student ambassadors to leadership roles within The United Methodist Church.
Reaching Annual Conferences
The Lina H. McCord Summer Ambassador Program follows a model of communication and interaction prominent in the Methodist tradition.
“It is an invaluable means of sharing the story of the Black College Fund and the 11 Black colleges that the fund supports throughout The United Methodist Church. We want congregations in The United Methodist Church to see who they’re investing in,” shared Cynthia Bond Hopson, Ph.D., assistant general secretary, The Black College Fund and Ethnic Concerns, Division of Higher Education at GBHEM. “Historically black colleges and universities are still relevant and important in the life of the church. This program gives these students speaking and networking skills and an opportunity to share their success stories with United Methodists who have generously supported the Black College Fund. The McCord ambassadors are our best and brightest scholars and they beautifully represent the other 16,000 students who attend these schools each year.”
Impact on United Methodist Leader
Rev. Kevin Kosh, chaplain, religion and philosophy professor at Rust College, serves as a lifelong Black College Fund ambassador. He earned his bachelor degree from Rust College where he was first introduced to the program, and received a Master of Divinity from Gammon Theological Seminary. Kosh followed God’s call into ordained ministry, and attributes his path to the guiding posts of The United Methodist Church and The Black College Fund.
“I didn’t think I was going to be a pastor initially. I had a different idea of how I felt God was using me,” said Kosh. “I felt like I wanted to do community service. I wanted to get out and help—put my faith in action. The Lina H. McCord program showed me that the church is much larger than just the local congregation. It allowed me to explore different conferences, it allowed me to connect with different agencies. I wasn’t as reluctant to answer my call when I realized my calling, and the church itself, was broader than what I initially imagined.”
Kosh continued, “It stresses the importance of coming together, and more importantly, not only sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but also, telling your story, because your story makes it real for people.”
Today, Kosh uses his position on campus to pay it forward and provide the future United Methodist leaders at Rust College the same opportunities he had. “It’s extremely important to make sure we continuously support The Black College Fund and that we tell the story. There are so many different agencies in the church that affect so many different lives. The Black College Fund was an answer to my prayers. And it’s the answer to a lot of people’s prayers on this campus. We are literally changing people’s lives as we create disciples.”
Jalen Lawson, a master’s degree student at High Point University and Black College Fund ambassador, shared her story of finding her path with the help of the Lina H. McCord program. As an undergraduate student at Bennett College, Lawson felt discouraged in her search for scholarships and internships, that is, until she heard about the Lina H. McCord program from her campus chaplain, Rev. Dr. Natalie McLean. Lawson took a chance, applied for the program, and is grateful she did.
“This program has been nothing but a blessing to me. One United Methodist opportunity led to another,” shared Lawson, who is not only working toward her master’s degree at High Point University, but is also serving as the secretary of program resources for her district with the United Methodist Women. She attributes her opportunities with United Methodist Women to her involvement with The Black College Fund program. “If I didn’t know about The Black College Fund, I would have never been exposed to that, the opportunity for scholarships or to study abroad,” said Lawson who received a scholarship allowing her to connect with United Methodist Women in South Korea during a study abroad trip. “It was a chain reaction,” she continued. “Every semester some type of United Methodist opportunity came upon me, and I thought, ‘Wow, this all started with talking with Rev. Natalie McLean about the Black College Fund.’”
Lawson reinforced the impact the program has on student experiences saying, “The Black College Fund really broadens students’ exposure to what is out there—beyond what’s in The United Methodist Church—there’s more to it.”
A Bright Future
The student ambassador program has continued to grow. Since 1987, requests for ambassadors have increased significantly, and the program has taken on a new shape. As more and more conferences have requested ambassadors to participate in the Annual Conference meetings, an increased number of field placements are made during peak calendar periods.
“Annual Conferences are pressed for time these days and so we’re doing the saturation event November 19-26 to make sure churches see these shining examples of their investment,” Bond Hopson shared. “The Fund was begun in 1972 and some of our most important leaders have graduated from one of these 11 Black College Fund institutions.”
The Black College Fund supports the following HBCUs: Bennett, Paine, Philander, Rust, and Wiley Colleges, Meharry Medical College, Bethune Cookman, Claflin, Clark Atlanta, Dillard, and Huston Tillotson University.
“Because United Methodists faithfully and generously give to The Black College Fund, generations of students are able to dream, do and lead,” said Bond Hopson. “It’s ever-important for these young leaders to share their stories across the United Methodist Connection.”
To request a visit from a Black College Fund Lina H. McCord ambassador, or to learn more about The Black College Fund and all United Methodist-related colleges and universities, visit www.gbhem.org/students/the-black-college-fund.