By: Christa Meland
Wheelock United Methodist Church in St. Paul recently received a statewide award in recognition of its unique partnership with Hamline University, a United Methodist-related school.
The Presidents’ Community Partner Award is given annually to a community-based organization that has enhanced quality of life in the community in meaningful and measurable ways and that has engaged in the development of sustained, reciprocal partnerships with a college or university, thus enriching educational as well as community outcomes.
The award is given by the Minnesota Campus Compact, an organization that supports civic engagement and democratic renewal through its network of close to 40 member colleges and universities.
Hamline’s McVay Youth Partnership, an after-school program serving urban middle- and high-school youth, has been operating at Wheelock UMC (and its predecessor congregation) since June 2007. The church hosts 20 to 45 middle and high school youth three days a week.
Most of the students are from Karen families who fled from refugee camps in Thailand and arrived in the United States within the past couple of years.
“Our McVay fellows and interns at Wheelock worked tirelessly with these youth to build relationships and help them improve their English skills and academic performance,” said Jane Krentz, director of McVay Youth Partnership and the person who nominated Wheelock UMC for the award. “We so appreciate the support the Hmong congregation of Wheelock has provided. Possibly because many of them had very similar refugee experiences to the Karen families, there seems to be a special connection between the church and the youth we serve.”
Last fall, members of Wheelock UMC invited students in the McVay program to help them organize a Halloween party for other youth in the neighborhood, which built new connections and created goodwill within the community.
Rev. Tsuchue Vang, pastor at Wheelock UMC, and the congregation’s youth pastor both serve on the McVay Advisory Committee.
Two other Hamline University students and a Hamline faculty member were also recognized by Minnesota Campus Compact. Learn more here.
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minneosta Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church