First Baptist Church in Rockport, Mass., decided to set up a “college immersion trip” to the University of Massachusetts (Amherst) to expose financially disadvantaged youths in middle and high schools to the possibility of pursuing higher education. Many of the immersion visitors would become the first students in their families to attend college, said Rev. Matt Wigton, pastor of First Baptist Church.
A $500 Matthew 25 grant from American Baptist Churches USA completely funded the immersion experience for eight youth, their youth leader Tchelsea Grenfell, and their pastor. First Baptist Church was organized in 1808 at its present location in the Sandy Bay locale of Rockport.
“As a lot of studies have concluded, education provides an important tool in allowing individuals to move out of cycles of economic hardship,” Wigton says.” It is particularly difficult for first generation students, who come from families where no one has attended college, to pursue and stay in college studies. We recognize that most students make a decision to seriously consider college by the time they reach eighth grade. We wanted to expose youth around us to the possibility of higher education.”
Rockport (population about 7,200) is a picturesque, coastal, small community east of Gloucester on the tip of Cape Ann and surrounded on three sides by ocean. Historically it has been known as a lobster fishing locale. Construction is a leading occupation, along with residents who are a part of professional, scientific and technology fields. Manufacturing, health and social services, and accommodation and food service employees are also part the mix. The latter hospitality jobs cater to tourists and artists who enjoy the Rockport region.
Wigton said the grant made a great difference. “It paid for the cost of transportation to UMASS as well as meal costs,” Wigton says. “Without the grant it is likely that many of these students would have been unable to make the trip.”
The Matthew 25 Grant initiative, sponsored by ABCUSA Office of the General Secretary and the Board of General Ministries, is funded by a generous, anonymous donor whose goal is to help meet the needs of “housing, feeding, education and health with regard to the less fortunate.”
The application process for a Matthew 25 Grant is structured to help small ministries with limited staff time. For more information on the grant and application process visit: www.abc-usa.org/matthew25.