Sunday’s Scripture ~ Matthew 6:5-15.
On Thursday I had the privilege to attend The Victory Cup Initiative at Rollins College. Think “Shark Tank” but for local non-profits in the greater Orlando Metro area to receive grant monies from local philanthropists.
Nearly 200 non-profit groups throughout Central Florida applied to be a part of The Victory Cup Program. Out of the initial applicant pool 80 were selected. And then 16 from the 80. And then finally 10 finalists were selected from the 16 to participate in a seminar program with Rollins College to perfect their “pitches” through storytelling.
Each of the 10 organizations had 2 1/2 minutes – 150 seconds – to tell the story and vision of their organization to over 300 philanthropists from the greater Central Florida area. First prize was $20,000; second prize was $10,000; third prize was $5,000; and the remaining seven finalists each received $1,000. It was an incredible morning of sharing hope and hearing hope, which is such balm for the soul.
I attended The Victory Cup at the invitation of Wendy Blair, the principal of Tuskawilla UMC’s Community Partner – The Arbor School of Central Florida. She shared a story about Emily, a high school student that participates in her classes with The Arbor School on our church campus. Wendy shared:
Imagine that you are a parent sitting in the principal’s office of your 13 year old daughter and being told that she is never going to learn past the 2nd grade level and trying to let go of every parent’s dream of careers, family, and independence for her.
When Emily was 5, her mother had to fight the school district to have her placed in a classroom that was appropriate. In 2nd grade, the school had an art show to show off the kids’ art work. Emily’s mother took time off from work and they went to the art show. Imagine the pain they both felt to not see anything with Emily’s name on it because her teachers “thought she wouldn’t know whether her work was hung or not”.
After trying many different schools without success, they joined Arbor School 5 years ago. Together with Emily and her mother, our teachers and therapists set up a plan for Emily to achieve her hopes and dreams. Our unique approach included very small classroom instruction using curriculum that was created based on her talents to fill in the education gaps that prevented her from making progress. Our speech therapists worked with her to overcome her inability to pronounce words correctly. Our occupational therapists provided her with new self-confidence by improving her ability to process information and problem solve. Music therapy brought out a beautiful singing voice.
Today Emily is a self-assured young woman. Like any 18 year old, she is posting on Facebook while texting her many friends. She has also begun to blog. She is currently a junior in our high school transition program working to complete the credits she needs to graduate next year and is researching colleges that carry a major of journalism.
We have many stories like Emily’s. The diagnosis and journey may be different but the story is always the same. Parents having no hope and feeling left out of their child’s education. Schools and teachers who give up on the kids because they are different.
Recently at a music recital, Emily sang her latest song. I want to leave you with just a few of her words from her song “Being Strong”
Without you I am alone with no hope, but I found someone to help lead me to the way….
When I think about all the incredible work that Wendy, her teachers, staff, and therapists with The Arbor School are doing with the students and families they serve, I truly believe they are living into Jesus’ words “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt 6:10). It is such a blessing to have these inspiring students meeting, engaging, and learning on our church campus. I truly believe our buildings are being used as they are intended to be used – daily, for enrichment, for people to safely and with joy draw near to one another as they draw near to who God desires them to be through and with their learning. This is Kingdom work! I am delighted to see how TUMC’s relationship with The Arbor School continues to blossom.
If you would like to learn more about The Arbor School of Central Florida, click here.
Prayer: “Let us praise the Lord. Kum ba ya. Let us praise the Lord. Kum ba ya. Let us praise the Lord. Kum ba ya. Oh, Lord, kum ba ya.”* Amen.
*”Kum Ba Ya,” The United Methodist Hymnal 494.