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Lilly Endowment Helps Florida High School Students Explore Foundations in Faith and Leadership at Bethune-Cookman University


Exploring Gifts and Graces is a summer residential program funded by the Lilly Endowment to help high school students examine how their faith commitments relate to their vocational choices. The program is hosted by the Cornelius and Dorothye Henderson School of Religion.

This summer a group of 50 high school students from Florida are on the campus of Bethune-Cookman University for a nine-day residential program focusing on theology and leadership. 

Community service is an integral component of the program and earlier this week, the group transformed recycled plastic shopping bags into mats for individuals who are homeless.  B-CU's own Avis Butler, director of the Wildcat Immersion Program, and Kay Wingard from Covenant United Methodist Church were on hand to teach the youth how to craft the mats.

Connecting the service project with education about homelessness was Director of the Volusia/Flagler Coalition for the Homeless Jeff White.

“He talked about the homeless problem in Central Florida and helped raise awareness about homelessness and how it could happen to anyone of any social class or education level,” said Exploring Gifts and Graces Program Director Alice Wood. “He even talked about the homelessness of many kids in the school system and in colleges.”

Among the activities planned are workshops incorporating the arts to create a special worship experience. Participants take classes in Bible, Christian Vocation and Theology.  Exploring Gifts and Graces is funded by a four-year grant from the Lilly Endowment, Inc. The program is in its third year and will run from July 14 – 22, 2018.

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About Bethune Cookman University:

Founded in 1904 by Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) today sustains her legacy of faith, scholarship, and service through its relationship with the United Methodist Church and its commitment to academic excellence and civic engagement.  B-CU offers 38 degrees on its main campus and online college. Located in Daytona Beach, B-CU is one of three private, historically black colleges in the state of Florida. The institution boasts a diverse and international faculty and student body of nearly 4,000.  For more information, visit

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