Project Transformation ties remain strong through the yearsBy ERIC LINDH
Project Transformation has engaged college-age interns in hands-on ministry through after-school and summer day camp programs to low-income children and youth, while helping these interns to discern a call to ministry. The North Texas Conference launched the outreach in 1998 as a key component of an emerging urban strategy.
From the beginning, Project Transformation's goals have been threefold:
To provide young adult interns with ministry exploration and leadership development.
To help under-served children and youth grow in body, mind, and spirit.
To connect churches with low-income communities.
After 13 years of ministry, Project Transformation is seeing its first two goals meld into one. As participating youth grow out of the program after ninth grade, many refuse to say goodbye and instead volunteer in the program. While many high school students might spend their summers parked in front of the television, 58 of Project Transformation's former day camp participants volunteered every day in summer day camp, reading with children and assisting with activities.
Some former participants, now in college, have returned to work as young adult interns, serving the same communities where they grew up. Of the 103 college interns serving with Project Transformation during the summer, four are former participants.
In order to stay connected to and invest in these high school students, Project Transformation launched a pilot program this summer specifically for the high school students who grew up attending its summer day camp.
Of the 58 high school volunteers from Project Transformation's nine church sites, 25 took part in Project Transformation's newly expanded Leader in Training Experience, or LITE, every Wednesday afternoon. In addition to volunteering at the day camp each morning, the volunteers participated in a leadership program designed especially for them.
Led by Project Transformation's summer staff, LITE participants explored their unique leadership skills and how they could channel those into furthering the Kingdom of God. Other weeks included numerous hands-on activities that taught them about respect, diversity, money management and goal-setting. The Rev. Tonya Burton of Perkins Youth School of Theology came to talk about conflict resolution and cross-cultural communication.
LITE participants also led a service project at a local nursing home in Oak Cliff, as well as took a daylong college visit to Southern Methodist University. The teens took an extensive tour of SMU's campus, spoke with an admissions counselor, learned more about becoming a college intern with Project Transformation and reflected on their summer experience.
The hope is that through the skills they learn at Project Transformation, they will not only pursue college and become interns, but also continue on as leaders in their church and communities.
Catherine Evans, former intern and current summer staff member, said that after four summers with Project Transformation, she reflects back on the children she's served. "I'm constantly amazed by how much they have changed me. But none have had quite the same effect as this group of teens has. Their dedication to the program and perseverance throughout several obstacles inspires me."