“God’s favor has been all over Future of Hope from the very beginning. In our first year of existence, we were able to reach our recruitment goal, as we welcomed 24 students from eight different high schools across the Knoxville community,” said Dametraus Jaggers, the director of the Future of Hope Institute. The Future of Hope Institute is a program under the Urban Alliance, a Johnson University initiative that partners with other organizations in urban Knoxville to encourage and assist rising community leaders through educational opportunities. The Future of Hope Institute is funded by the Lilly Endowment Inc. The Lilly Endowment is a grant given to institutions of higher education to assist in the development of high school youth theology institutes. Johnson University was blessed to receive this prestigious grant in December of 2015.
The Future of Hope Institute allows high school students in the Knoxville area to have an opportunity to connect with their city. The program is specifically for rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors who have a desire to do well in school and engage their community. To kick off the first year, students spent their first three days at a retreat center in Gatlinburg. The idea behind this “getaway” was to isolate students from the city as a way of stepping outside of their normal context in order to create a more intimate relationship with the Future of Hope team and more importantly, God. This occurred at the beginning of the week-long experience as a way to set the standard of what’s to come. After returning to Knoxville on the afternoon of Day 3, students began to be immersed in the city. Each day, students learned about community organizations and worked alongside community leaders as a way of acknowledging and addressing social issues in the Knoxville area. They were guided by Johnson University professors and staff, as well as a team of five interns from several universities in discovering ways of viewing these issues from a biblical perspective. This year, students had interactions with the Restoration House of East Tennessee, Volunteer Ministry Center, Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee, Beardsley Farms, Mobile Meals, the Knox County Public Defender’s Community Law Office, and the Knox County Health Department. Students also had meals, worship, and fellowship at several churches in Knoxville.
At the end of the week, the students were strategically placed in small groups for their projects, based on their interests. The goal of these teams is to design and implement a community impact project that benefits their community in a significant area, which is one of the key elements of the Future of Hope Institute. The planning and completion of these projects takes place over an eight-month time frame. The grand finale of the program will be a formal banquet where the teams of students will present their completed projects to a panel of peers and community leaders. Each participant who successfully completes the program receives a $2000 scholarship to the college or university of his or her choice. While the program is not intended to be a recruitment initiative, Future of Hope students who decide to attend Johnson University will receive an additional $1000 per school year.
“So far, we have had a fruitful and inspiring experience,” said Mr. Jaggers.