From the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry
The Joseph Bethea Scholarship was established to assist African-American students who are members of the Southeastern Jurisdiction Black Methodist for Church Renewal (BMCR) in obtaining a basic college education. The fund is in memory of Bishop Joseph B. Bethea’s lifelong commitment to Christian higher education and is administered through the Office of Loans and Scholarships at the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM).
Since 2000, GBHEM has awarded 15 students the Joseph Bethea Scholarship. This year, Ashanti Wright received her second Joseph Bethea Scholarship. As a junior at Hampton University, Ashanti is continuing her pre-nursing major and studying to be either a post-partum or neonatal nurse. Ashanti plans to attend graduate school after the completion of her undergraduate degree and is excited by what her future holds.
“The scholarship helped me last year, and will be even more helpful this year,” said Ashanti, whose mother passed away earlier this year. “It’s been a blessing to receive this scholarship.”
Ashanti attended church from a young age and followed her faith walk through confirmation and church membership at her home church, John Wesley UMC in North Carolina. Now, she continues to pursue her faith journey in following Jesus Christ by attending weekly worship service on campus, and participating in Bible Study and campus ministry at Hampton University.
Ashanti originally chose Hampton to challenge herself in a new atmosphere with an entirely new set of peers and mentors. Entering her third year, she acknowledges her personal growth. “My goal has always been to be a nurse, but now I’m thinking about living outside of North Carolina after graduation,” she said. “I grew up in a small town, and people are so caring and kind there – it’s a great place to grow up. But, college showed me that there are people in the world who haven’t seen the kind of love I saw in my hometown. I want to bring God’s love to other people, who might not have had that.”
Over the summer, Ashanti was deeply moved by the opportunity to work in the hospital as part of her education – a place she has felt called by God to be in. “You feel like you have a calling on your life, and it’s leading you in a particular direction,” she said. “When you actually get there and experience the thing you’ve been called to, it just confirms this calling you’ve had.”
With an impressive GPA, Ashanti is a strong witness for Christ and continues to grow the leadership qualities she demonstrated in her high school, church and home community that originally won her the Joseph Bethea Scholarship award.
Her advice for freshmen starting college is to bring God’s love everywhere and take advantage of the opportunities you’ve been given. “You really don’t know until you try it, so don’t close yourself off. Be open minded to the newness of college.” Ashanti aims to be a blessing to others and encourages those she meets to realize that He is a good God. “Although things might seem hard for you in a particular time, it could always be worse,” she adds. “Give thanks for where you are.”
While award amounts vary from year to year based on financial support, Josefa Wall, daughter of Bishop Bethea, noted a recent increase in the scholarship amount available for each awarded student. “The level of financial need of our students is high, and we want to do all that we can to provide the greatest level of assistance to students seeking a college degree,” said Josefa. “An inability to pay for school should not limit students’ ability to obtain a college education.”
Josefa is committed to the continued growth of the scholarship fund to help equip youth to serve as leaders for the church and their communities. The scholarship was created in recognition of the faithfulness of Bishop Joseph B. Bethea to the constituency of Southeastern Jurisdiction BMCR, according to Carleathea Benson, pastor at Fairfield United Methodist Church in Piedmont, South Carolina. Josefa adds, “Bishop Bethea dedicated his life to Christian higher education and the scholarship fund is one very special way that we can honor his memory and help send more young African-Americans to college. He would be pleased that youth involved in BMCR have support in accomplishing their goals.”
Those wishing to support the Joseph Bethea Scholarship fund can do so in two ways. First, spread the word about the scholarship in youth groups in the Southeastern Jurisdiction. A focus moving forward is to increase the number of applicants for the scholarship. Second, support the scholarship through financial donations. Donated funds are key to continuing and increasing the scholarship for African-American students pursuing college degrees. Contributions to the scholarship fund may be forwarded to the Office of Loans and Scholarships, General Board of Higher Educations and Ministry, P.O. Box 340007, Nashville, TN 37203-0007.