KNOXVILLE — The Future of Hope Institute celebrated their opening year and first class of 20 young scholars who experienced training focused on impacting their local environment by cultivating justice this Thursday evening.
Director of the Future of Hope Institute, Dametraus Jaggers began the banquet by explaining what brought his vision to life and made FOH possible.
“The Future of Hope institute provides high school students with the opportunity to engage their city by inspiring them to think theologically about the challenges of living in a contemporary urban context,” he said. “With a $600,000 grant from the Lily Endowment and a significant investment from Johnson University the Future of Hope Institute became a reality.
“It has been one year and two days since I and a group of committed staff and interns began this journey, a journey that would challenge us in new and exciting ways and, at times, would be difficult and uncomfortable,” he added.
Jaggers said that this journey began with seven days of community and theological instruction for their 20 recruited high school juniors and seniors. These scholars represent nine Knox County high schools and nine different church congregations.
After students complete the week-long instruction they were partnered with a mentor and project advisor to help them complete a vision project that addresses a need within the community over a nine month period.
After each scholar completes the program they are presented with a $2000 scholarship to a college or university of their choice. Students who choose to attend Johnson University will receive an extra $1000 per year.
“To those who say that this is a lost generation, I say to them take a closer look because over the last year I have had the pleasure to work side-by-side with passionate, creative and thoughtful students,” Jaggers said. “They are not just our future they are also our hope.”
Doug Messer who’s daughter Anna participated as a scholar in FOH and who mentored another scholar, Caleb Norris, said that the growth the students experienced was deeper than he could have imagined.
“I believe and pray that the relationships that were born here will continue to deepen and last a lifetime,” he said. “These kids, their lives, their stories have now become part of one another’s story.
“Anna has learned and grown in maturity, deepened in her passion to seek after and cultivate a just society and in doing all that she has been drawn more deeply and more intimately toward Christ through Future of Hope,” he added.
Robin Johnson, mother of FOH scholar Tyshawn Young said that in the beginning her son was unsure of the program.
“I can remember dropping him off and he was kind of hesitant because he didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “I had heard some really great things about the people who were involved but I really didn’t know what to expect from the program.”
After the seven day camp Robinson said she asked her son if he enjoyed himself.
“He said ‘It changed my life,'” she said. “He’s been raised in the church but I think this
opportunity is where my son found his God. It’s great to know mama’s God, it’s great to know granny’s God, but when you find it for yourself — it’s one of those things that I get overwhelmed when I think about.
“I’m thankful for Mr. Jaggers and his staff for working so hard over the summer and throughout these nine months as they pour into our children. What I got out of it and what my son got out of it was Christ,” she added.
Jaggers said that FOH plans to expand in the coming year thanks to community support and positive feedback from the parents of the students involved.
“Beginning summer 2017 we will also be able to add a year two component to our institute that our returning scholars will be able to apply to participate in,” he said. “Year two will be focused on exploring ministry as a vocation and how one can integrate faith into their career despite what field of interest they might be in.”
Jaggers said they will also be launching a Future of Hope Academy for rising freshman and sophomore students in January.
“The Future of Hope Academy will consist of an annual faith and justice conference exploring the integration of faith and the pursuit of justice in a three to five day summer day camp,” he said.
To learn more about the institute or to donate to their cause visit here.