Next Time It’s On Me by Nicole Eaton

IMG_9622     A few weeks ago, Ed’Neika and I went to lunch to catch up. We do this every once in a while, and I’m always more than happy to pay for her. We sat at the table for a good amount of time, filling each other in on all that had happened since we had last seen each other. We talked about family and boys and our favorite summer days. Most of Ed’Neika’s favorite days had been filled with working two jobs back to back. She loves her jobs and enjoys going to work every day. As she spoke (about both work and boys), I heard the heart of a woman who is mature and wise, empowered and confident in her identity and worth. I wouldn’t say I was surprised – I’ve always seen glimpses of these things in Ed’Neika, but I was still taken aback a bit as I listened to her with a smile on my face. I think it’s what I would imagine a “proud parent” moment to feel like.

As we were getting ready to leave, we noticed the peach truck parked outside the window, and we both took interest. Learning that they only sold peaches by the bag, I reached for my wallet, but Ed’Neika extended her hand and said, “I’ve got this, Mrs. Nicole”. She made the purchase and asked for an extra bag in which she placed some of her peaches and said, “For you and Mr. Cy,” as she handed it to me with a smile. As we pulled up to her house, she thanked me for lunch and asked to do it again soon. “Next time it’s on me,” she said.

The moment was simple but significant. You see, Ed’Neika has joyfully chosen the role of giver and contributor, even though she knows she has the option to receive. She knows that she has something good to offer – made clear through the purchase of peaches and through her evident self-respect in regards to boys.

I love the role that PTM has gotten to play in shaping this strong, confident woman. We get to help teach and train and build competence, to love and encourage and build confidence. Partnered with families and teachers and all the other amazing people God places in their lives, we get to help our students grow wings, and eventually we get to watch them fly. Sometimes flying looks like graduating high school, going to college, living independently. Sometimes it looks like getting a summer job and buying peaches for a friend. I love the front row seat that PTM has offered me into the lives of our students… I love that it’s a window through which I get to watch Ed’Neika fly.

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Introducing Jaakarn!

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I wrote a letter to PTM’s future high school director as a blog post in March. It is a tool we have used to lay out in more detail what the “job” really entails. For the high school director we were looking for someone who would love the position, who demonstrates great faith, with great wisdom, someone who is hard-working, a team player, a great communicator, and a builder. More than one person we have interviewed for various positions has cited their connection to a particular letter as the reason for their desire to pursue a position with PTM. So, when I asked Jay how he connected with this letter, he said “I don’t measure up”. He proceeded to outline areas he was looking to grow in and a commitment to depending on the grace of God. He did an awesome job in a 30 minute skype interview captivating our committee’s attention and convincing us that we need him leading our high school. I followed up with a 45 minute phone conversation and we had a second committee skype interview.

Jay started in late May and did a fantastic job leading our Summer SaLT program and developing our summer high school program at Community House. I had the privilege of going on a high school retreat to end the summer where Jay led beautifully in every way. Multiple times a day a breathe prayers of thanks for God’s incredible provision to send leaders to PTM.

Here is a snippet from Jay’s cover letter…

… growing up without my father was extremely difficult. Throughout High School I was faced with pressures and experiences that I would not have been able to handle unless I had certain people in my corner. God has strategically provided men in my life at certain times to help me move forward. These men ranged from coaches to teachers and pastors. 1 Corinthians 1:3-4 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” Looking back at how God provided all these mentors and spiritual guides in my life during those pivotal years, I cannot see myself doing anything else but dedicating my life to that endeavor. I believe ‘Preston Taylor Ministries’ is the place where I can show the tangible love of God the Father to teenagers as a High School and Thrive Director.

I hope that you have a chance to meet Jay soon. You will enjoy serving with him and will share my excitement that our youth have another Godly leader to help them pursue God-inspired dreams.

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Meet Julia

DSC_0303 Hi, my name is Julia Scott. I am going to be a senior in high school at Franklin Road Academy this year and could not be more excited for what is to come! My school has a program called the Turner Fellowship program in which 12 students are selected and then paired with an organization to intern at for 6 weeks during the summer. I am truly and completely blessed to have been paired with Preston Taylor Ministries. Before starting my internship at PTM, I had never really been involved there. I knew what PTM was, where it was based, and what they did, but I’d never really gone out of my way to volunteer before. Honestly, before I started interning at PTM, my service work was pretty much limited to animals and adults with disabilities. Coming into an organization like PTM definitely was out of my comfort zone, but as I’ve spent more and more time there I am absolutely amazed at how much I have grown as a person. In the last 5 weeks that I have been present I have learned what it means to be patient, how to understand and have more empathy towards others, how to handle situations better, what being a good leader really is, and most importantly how to have grace.

DSC_0669Coming into an organization like this I really wasn’t sure to expect, but I definitely was not expecting to see the amount of joy that came from every single child who walked through the doors. I’ve come to know and love so many of these kids, and I’m really sad that there’s only one week of programming left. I’ve only got one week left to cook breakfast, play soccer and basketball, and say a morning prayer at Rally Time—3 things that are really the highlights of my day. I feel even more blessed than I was when I came into PTM at the beginning of the summer and cannot even begin to describe how much fun and how many laughs I have had these past few weeks. Probably the funniest thing to happen to me is last week when it was raining outside, all of the kids and directors started playing music and dancing all around the gym at St. Luke’s Community House. It was a sight to see, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

If I could travel anywhere, I would probably go to Romania. Not only is there so much cool history and culture there, but there are also great opportunities to help children in poverty stricken areas and children who are in orphanages.

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Meet Margot

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset Hi! My name is Margot May. I am a rising junior at Harpeth Hall. In January, I wasn’t doing a sport and I wanted to do more with community service so I started volunteering at the Mt. Nebo site and helping with PTM Life on Fridays. Immediately a simple way of getting involved in the community turned into much more. As so many volunteers do, I got hooked on PTM. I fell in love with the kids and the PTM community so I decided to continue volunteering after school in the spring instead of doing track. I had been reaching out to different organizations about a service related internship for the summer this March when Abbie, the leap year intern, reached out to offer the summer internship. The timing could not have been more perfect. I knew the minute I opened Abbie’s email that I was going to spend my summer at Preston Taylor. I just felt it was where I was supposed to be.

Whenever I talk about PTM I always say that the kids are making a bigger impact on me then I am on them. These kids deal with some hard issues; much harder issues then I ever had to deal with when I was a kid. Yet despite their struggles, the majority of kids come to PTM with joy and a childlike happiness. They have taught me a lesson in perseverance. Going to a private school in Nashville it is pretty easy to create a bubble around yourself and to forget how blessed you truly are. To hear the children’s stories is really eye opening. Volunteering at PTM has instilled an immense amount of gratitude in me.  Also, I have to mention the PTM staff. The staff here is compiled of some of the most loving, hardworking, and strong people I know. They remind me of the Christin that is described in Proverbs 31:25, “She is clothed in strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future”. The staff shows an unending amount of faith in God’s plan and provisions.  The environment at Preston Taylor is positive and happy. The staff never seems to stress, instead they put all their faith in Him and watch as He provides. Being surrounded by people who are so rooted in Christ has really helped me to grow in my faith. The staff has done so much for me by just being strong role models and I owe them and the PTM community all my gratitude.

The highlight of my day is prayer time. To watch as a student leads his or her friends in prayer is extremely humbling. I love to see the difference in how each kid talks to God. Most of the children have a genuine interest in learning about Christ and to watch the growth in their relationship with Him is really rewarding. My favorite memory from PTM was at the end of the school year. Amariez ran up to me with a huge smile on his face and exclaimed, “Miss Margot! Did Miss Katelyn tell you what I told her?” Amariez had told Katelyn that he wanted to devote his life to Jesus and affirm his faith. Hearing these words from a second grader made me so thankful for the work that PTM is doing.

If you could travel anywhere, where would it be and why?: I would love to travel to Thailand.  Southeastern Asia is rich in culture and life and I want to go experience that first hand. World travel is an amazing gift that grants us the opportunity of seeing a different side of God’s creations. Experiencing others lifestyles causes deeper understanding which creates bonds of respect and love. I would love to experience that in an area of the world that is so unfamiliar to me.

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Meet Kate

IMG_8645 Hi my name is Kate Scarola and I will be a sophomore at Auburn University in the fall! Preston Taylor Ministries is such an incredible place and has always meant so much to my family and me. I feel very blessed by the opportunity to spend my summer here. Growing up, I would come every now and then to volunteer at the after school programs, do Angel Tree at Christmas time, or help work the Nativity store. Getting to have that time with the students and their families at PTM was wonderful and to share it with my family made it all the more special. However, I never felt like I got enough time at PTM or enough time getting to really know the students. I wanted to be able to learn and remember their names and have them do the same in return. I wanted to build those connections, though they may be small at first, that I never took the time to build. So, when Chan mentioned something to me about doing a summer internship with PTM, there was very little hesitation in saying yes! I then interviewed and learned soon after that I would have the amazing opportunity of working with Sara Horton, the advancement director. I knew that this is what God was calling me to do and how he wanted me to grow closer not only to the students and staff, but also to Him.

Being at PTM, it helps keep me humble and grounded. I get to see and interact with people everyday that I would not usually get to see. To be reminded that life is not always easy and that people who are struggling just need to see the love and support of God, PTM is a constant reminder of all the great things these children and youth can and will accomplish. Being around the staff and seeing their true passion for at-risk youth shows me what it really looks like to be called by the Lord and do His work. It is truly remarkable and I learn more and more from them each day. The students at PTM are so full of energy and though some days may be harder than others, I have learned from them to take each day as it comes and not take life too seriously. I have been impacted by PTM in so many ways and I feel like it is something new each day. God’s plan is so much greater than I can imagine, but I feel I get to see a glimpse into it everyday I walk through the doors of PTM.

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The highlight of my day at PTM is when the children arrive to and leave from Wilson Center because they always stand outside my office and we get to talk about what they are doing that day and then how their day went. I love the little moments. My favorite moment from this summer was at Pickin’ and Grinnin’ when J’twan and Arkee performed their rap. They were so nervous but got up on stage and brought the house down. It was so much fun to watch them and hear them sing about how “God’s got us”; it was really special.

Lastly, if I could travel anywhere in the world it would be to Austria. There is so much history and beauty there, I am also a huge Sound of Music fan and want to do that tour.

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Meet Haydon

IMG_9828 Hi! My name is Haydon Tucker. I came to Nashville almost a year ago to start my freshman year at Vanderbilt, but I found my way to PTM before I had even gone to all my classes. After being heavily involved with tutoring and mentoring elementary school students in my hometown, Chattanooga, I wanted to continue similar work in my new city (and mostly, I missed hanging out with kiddos). I had a friend who had previously volunteered with PTM, and during the first week of school, I hopped in his car and ended up at St. Luke’s. It was there, over the course of the year, that I fell in love with the ministry of PTM, formed countless joy-filled friendships, and saw the Lord undoubtedly at work.

As the school year drew to a close, I felt that God was moving in my heart to stay at PTM and learn about and invest in their mission more over the summer. I so loved everything I observed about the ministry during the year and wanted to learn and grow along with them (and hang out with the students who had stolen my heart). I’m now working (and dreaming) with Nina (dream team!!) to plan different program-related activities for the summer and the fall, including, but not limited to, field trips and events, promotional and training videos, Fun Fridays, camps, and Dream Groups and activities.

If I had any expectations about what this summer would hold, each and every one has been abundantly exceeded. I have learned more about effective, gospel-centered ministry than I knew I could in such a short time, I have seen the Lord moving in small ways and big ones, I have received wise counsel and dear friendship from staff members and life lessons from students, and I have glimpsed a bit more of the Lord’s heart for reconciliation— He truly is calling all things back to himself. Being the programming intern has shown me the essentiality of behind-the-scenes service and the value in careful (and prayerful) planning.

The highlights of my day, every day, are the intermittent conversations I get to have with students who stop by my desk or run through the hallways or stop me on my way through the building or out the door. They are encouraging and challenging, simultaneously uplifting and difficult, and, oftentimes, hilarious. My favorite moments of the summer have been talking to students after returning from camp, whether it be Barefoot overnight or day camp, ballet class, Camp Wonderfully Made bible study—seeing the way that our students respond to new opportunity with excitement and eagerness is the sweetest thing.

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If I could travel anywhere (the answer to this question changes based on the day), I’d go to Spain! I love spanish culture and language and would love to hike and explore all over the country.

 

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Meet Maddie

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 9.48.24 AM     My name is Maddie Miller and I am a rising junior at Harpeth Hall. This spring, as summer was quickly approaching, I knew I wanted to stay busy and have a job or internship that was full time this summer. Since sixth grade I have volunteered sporadically with Preston Taylor Ministries. At first I was introduced to Preston Taylor through my church, First Presbyterian Church. Then I volunteered some with my school, and as I grew older I began to volunteer on my own. This past year I made it more of a priority to volunteer after school and to get involved in afterschool programming. I loved volunteering with Katelyn at the Mt. Nebo branch and working with Abbie and Josh at PTM Life. My involvement with PTM has been critical in my spiritual growth as an individual. Because of this impact, I knew I wanted to continue to volunteer this summer.

The highlight of my internship thus far has been taking a group of kids to the spray grounds. I love working with elementary level kids because of their excitement and energy. It does not take much to entertain them. At St. Luke’s Community House there is a large Latino and Vietnamese population, and in those cultures there is a large focus on family. My favorite small moments have been seeing the siblings interact in programming. Usually the older sibling is protective and loves to help the younger sister or brother.

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I’ve loved watching the many elementary kids grow spiritually in their walk with Christ. Before PTM many of these kids did not know His word and His greatness. Along with the kids, I am still learning and curious about God and the plan He has for me. This internship has allowed me to devote a time routinely in my day to pray and talk to Him. I am excited to continue this internship these next three weeks and see what God has in store for me. And lastly, a random fact about myself is if I could travel anywhere in the world I would want to go to Thailand. I’d love to see the beautiful green gardens and eat authentic Thai food. The culture and history of the country interests me.

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