Service First Program Dispatches 16 Mercer Students Around the World

Sixteen Mercer graduates have taken advantage of a new program, Service First, which helps match recent Mercer graduates with international service opportunities. The program gives the new alumni a chance to experience life outside the United States while also helping them to further understand their gifts and calling.

Six graduates are in Thailand, six are in China, while other graduates are traveling to the Philippines, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Liberia. Service First is in its first year and is a part of a new effort at Mercer called the Institute for Life Purpose, charged with helping students discover and pursue their life’s dream. The institute is led by Dr. Scott Walker, CLA ’73, a former trustee and retired Baptist minister who returned to Mercer to launch the institute last year.

“We established this program to link Mercer graduates to service opportunities around the world,” Dr. Walker said. “The idea is to help them to have a meaningful experience while learning about the world and about themselves, to truly think about what their life dreams are.”

The graduates in the Thailand cohort are teaching English at two elementary and secondary schools for a year. Four graduates are teaching in Bangkok, including Ryan Schomburg, Taylor Malcolm, Alicia Jonah and Wesley Sanders. The other two, James Hood and Cara Davis, are teaching in Lampang. Sanders is blogging about his experiences at wesleygoestothailand.blogspot.com.

Six graduates are serving as English instructors at the University of Beijing, where they are teaching groups of public school teachers in an intensive one-month emersion program. The graduates will be in the country for 10 months. The graduates are Adam Mauldin, Akil Thomas, Mark Young, Alicia Kincheloe, Abby Rowswell, and Clementine Smyer. Young is writing about his experiences at markslifeinchina.blogspot.com.

Several graduates are traveling separately through various church-sponsored ventures. McAfee graduate Neil Boggan will spend a year teaching church and Baptist history courses at the Philippine Baptist Seminary, while Colby Knight just completed a summer appointment teaching English in Hungary before attending Wake Forest for graduate school, while 2008 graduate Shelby Smith will head for the Czech Republic to help set up a museum dedicated to sharing the story of the Roma, or gypsy, people. Tyler Jenkins, who will graduate in December, will travel to Liberia to work at a seminary there, beginning in January.

All of the programs have a potential for expansion, Dr. Walker said, and he is encouraged by the success of the program.

“Given that we have only been recruiting since February, I think we can consider our first year a success,” Dr. Walker said. “I get the sense that this will become much larger.”

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