Big Apple adventure

Liberty Eagle Scholars travel to New York for ministry

A group of Liberty University students traveled to New York on the weekend of April 6-10 for a service opportunity at Evangel Christian Center and School. The trip was part of the Eagle Scholars Program.

Gabby Jenkins shared her testimony during a chapel service. Photo credit: Bailey Pilgreen

Gabby Jenkins shared her testimony during a chapel service. Photo credit: Bailey Pilgreen

On Friday of that week, Eagle Scholars led young students in songs and testimonies during chapel services, assisted teachers in the classrooms, and helped with the upkeep of the school’s facilities.

Liberty students also participated in church services Sunday morning by helping to lead worship and teaching children’s Sunday School classes.

Dr. Roger Mackey, a professor for the Eagle Scholars Program, described the school as a “perfect fit” for certain students.

These students come and implement the lessons on changing culture that they have been learning throughout the semester.

“It’s a picture of servant leadership that we get to demonstrate, and it works,” Mackey said. “Servant leadership works.

When we developed Eagle Scholars, I said, ‘What a natural opportunity for something called culture change and to encourage and equip these students in a controlled environment.’”

All of the activities that took place, from recreational games to mini theater workshops, were organized and run entirely by Eagle Scholar students.

Eagle Scholar Coordinator Frank DiGregorio said that Eagle Scholar students were provided with very loose instructions of what they would need to do in New York, in order to encourage student initiative on projects.

“As we were planning this months ago, we basically said, ‘You are going to plan certain ministries,’” DiGregorio said.

“You can assign something to someone and say cover A to Z, cover all the details, and they might be just going through the motions to carry it out.

But if you give them a basic idea and tell them that they are free to make it their own, I think they take ownership and have more of a love for it.”

Sophomore Eagle Scholar Carleen Long was part of the dance team who performed at each chapel on Friday.

However, she said that her favorite part of the day was getting to spend time interacting with Evangel students during their lunch and recess.

“Not all of them get the attention when they are at home or quite as much during the school day,” Long said.

“I’m sure their teachers try, but they still need love, and so it was cool to give them some attention and talk to them one on one at lunch.”

As the elementary school children ran around on the playground with their new friends from Liberty, the Evangel teachers and staff repeatedly said how grateful they were to have the Eagle Scholars visit and volunteer at the school.

“It makes all of us here feel so supported because many times being here in New York you are alone,” Caroline Mako, Evangel principle said. “Churches don’t connect. When we first came here in 1989 … this area was very dangerous to be in. There were crack houses.

There were prostitutes on every corner…When you look at the area now, the area has completely changed, and I truly believe a lot of that has to do with when you bring God into an area and you guys pray.”

The school enrolls students from preschool through high school.The majority of enrolled students come from some of the largest public housing projects in the country.

According to Mako, approximately 85 percent of the enrolled students come from single-parent homes.

“The one thing I really appreciate about them is they do a really tough job,” DiGregorio said.

“If you walk around the school, you notice how things need to be fixed (and) things need to be updated. There were indeed places where duct tape was holding the carpet down.

This isn’t exactly a glamorous, high-paying job that they do. So I think that having people go there to help them really touched them.”

At the end of the day Friday, the Eagle Scholars presented Mako with a $600 donation that was raised during the Captivate fundraiser April 4 and through student donations.

Mako said she hopes to put the money toward encouraging her students to consider college after graduation by sending them to Liberty’s College for a Weekend.

DiGregorio described the weekend as both physically and emotionally draining but a blessing at the same time.

“I think it is always good for people to get out of their daily life and see how other people live and see what challenges other people face,” DiGregorio said.

“There is always someone who has a very difficult situation and presses on. I hope it has made us all a little tougher or stronger — given everyone a bigger heart for people.”

Lapp is a news reporter.

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