Jacob Hall remembers getting a call from his youth pastor at First United Methodist Church in Coral Springs in early 2020: he needed help building a desk. Hall happily obliged.
One thing led to another, and soon Hall was not only setting up the desk, but also livestreaming and recording church services when they went online during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s been a lot of fun to do,” Hall said. “And then just from livestream, I’ve learned all other aspects of tech for church with the lighting, the sound. It’s been a great experience.”
In the Fall, Hall will trade that learning experience for another, leaving home to attend Florida Southern College in Lakeland. And he’s getting some help from the Florida United Methodist Foundation as one of its five 2022 Sinclair scholars.
“I’m not doing this for myself or for somebody else. I’m doing it for God’s glory, first and foremost.” — Jacob Hall
The Sinclair Scholarship fosters academic and spiritual growth for United Methodist students in Florida. Established by Aleen and Carson Sinclair, longtime members of John Wesley United Methodist Church in Tallahassee, the scholarship provides students with up to $3,000 per year for up to four years.
Eligible students go through an application and interview process. From that, four to five recipients are chosen each year.
Hall will study exercise science and become an athletic trainer or physical therapist so he can help others achieve their fitness goals.
“I’m going to make sure that I go through these college years, put all that I can into it, get all that I can out of it, and just keep on pushing forward,” he said.
Working for a more therapeutic church
Rebecca Kern first felt her call to ministry in the summer of 2020 while on a trip with her youth group from Christ United Methodist Church in Venice.
A year later, she had the opportunity to preach for the first time at a night of worship she helped organize at her church with other worship groups.
The night was framed around Romans 5-8. When an extra speaker was needed, Kern stepped up to share her thoughts.
“It was awesome,” Kern said. “I talked about freedom and how we can separate our identity from the things that we have struggled with and step into being freed from those things.”
Afterwards, Kern says she felt so alive — that her vision for her future was becoming clearer.
“I was thrilled,” Kern said. “I felt like I was fulfilled and like that was really where I was supposed to be in that moment and for the rest of my life, hopefully.”
Using her Sinclair Scholarship, Kern will attend the University of Florida in Gainesville to earn a double-major in psychology and religion with a minor in Spanish.
Kern feels that path of study will help merge her interest in psychology, which she developed while taking an advanced psychology class in high school, with formal ministry. When she graduates, she wants to create a more therapeutic church model.
“I’m really interested in the kind of place in between religion and psychology,” Kern said. “Specifically, in regards to trauma and just the different ways that the human church has bumped and made mistakes and how we can create kind of a therapeutic environment that’s not so correlated with religion.”
In high school, Kern was involved with Science Olympiad, a national science competition, where she says she cultivated leadership and communication skills.
Earlier this summer, she went on a mission trip to a town near Sao Paolo, Brazil, where she worked with a local after-school relief ministry for children. Kern has also done mission work in Nashville, Orlando and her hometown of Venice as part of Mission Venice.
In Gainesville, Kern plans to explore new faith communities through Gator Wesley, the United Methodist student ministry on campus, as well as a local United Methodist church and the non-denominational Greenhouse Church.
“I feel really thankful and really grateful to be a (scholarship) recipient,” Kern said. “But it just really is motivating, honestly, and really encourages me to keep going with the UMC and give back and make sure I’m plugged in with the church when I get to college.”
For wellness and God’s glory
Along with desk building and church tech, Hall has also had the chance to serve on mission trips with his church.
He went to the Florida Panhandle and Houston, Texas, after hurricanes hit the areas. He says the Houston trip particularly gave him a new perspective on gratitude and his life.
“It put in a sense of how lucky I was,” Hall said. “And then being able to actually serve — even as little as we did — was just really, really great.”
”I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunities (the Sinclair Scholarship) is giving me. And I am going to use that to propel myself to continue being involved in volunteering and being passionate and being the hands and feet of Christ.” — Sophia Possick
His interest in exercise science stems from his experience early in the pandemic. With little else to do, he set off to run a mile one day but quickly had to stop. Though disappointed with his lack of fitness, the moment became a positive force, prompting him to continue improving his physical well-being.
“I just kind of really started thinking seriously on nutrition and exercise … and it’s become one of my biggest passions,” Hall said.
Now, Hall would like to help others strive for healthier lives.
“And then if I’m able to help other people achieve what I did, help them with their physical goals … it’d be amazing to be able to do that every single day,” he said.
Hall says his principal motivation is his faith. In particular, he thinks of Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”
“That’s obviously a primary driving factor for me,” Hall said. “And I’m not doing this for myself or for somebody else. I’m doing it for God’s glory, first and foremost.”
Hands and feet
Sophia Posick sometimes feels the stress of adjusting to life between high school and college — the overwhelming possibilities. She says her faith keeps her going.
“Sometimes it’s hard to get out of bed in the morning to try to figure out, especially right now …. where I’m going to end up in the world,” Posick said. “A lot of times I have to kind of have faith that, you know what, God’s got my back.”
That’s something her church, CrossRoad United Methodist Church in Jacksonville, could say of her. She has had the church’s back and from a young age. Beginning in sixth grade, she volunteered at Vacation Bible School. She also served as a small group leader for the children’s ministry and worked as a nursery aid during Sunday services.
A student of The Bolles School, a college preparatory and boarding school in Jacksonville, Posick was heavily involved with speech and debate, much of it through the Florida Incubate Debate program. In 2021, she won a Summer Debate Institute tournament in Gainesville. This summer, she was invited back as a student instructor.
Posick enjoys how speech and debate create an environment for civil discussion, even when there are disagreements. It helped her build confidence.
“You’re going to use that in whatever area of life that you choose,” she said.
And she’ll use those skills while studying political communication on a pre-law track at Florida Southern College in Lakeland — a school with a lot of family history.
“Both of my parents actually met at Florida Southern,” Posick said. “My brother is a current student there, as well. My aunt was there. My other grandmother was there. It’s definitely a family school.”
Initially, she fought the idea of following in their footsteps. But when she learned about the school’s Beyond Campus Ministry, a student led praise and worship group, her doubts began to melt away.
“We just kind of felt like the cards all fell into place, and God was kind of pointing me in this direction. … I’m excited to go there this fall,” Posick said.
Receiving the Sinclair Scholarship, she says, inspires her to continue serving God and being involved in church.
”I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunities it’s giving me,” Posick said. “And I am going to use that to propel myself to continue being involved in volunteering and being passionate and being the hands and feet of Christ.”
Giving back to camp
Like Hall and Posick, scholarship recipient Parker Allen plans to attend Florida Southern College — as a business major with a focus on sports management.
A long-time member at Community United Methodist Church in Fruitland Park, Allen has volunteered in the after-school program and Vacation Bible School and helped run lighting and streaming for worship. He has also participated in mission trips to New Orleans and Atlanta.
Faye Umble, minister of children and education at the church, has gotten to know Allen well since he became a member in 2015.
“I have been impressed with his willingness to serve wherever and however necessary,” Umble wrote in her recommendation letter for Allen. “And also his desire and ability to see needs and be willing to address those needs.”
Allen has been active in scouting since first grade. For his Eagle Scout project, he created benches and repaired the low ropes course at Warren Willis United Methodist Youth Camp in Fruitland Park, a place he attended each summer. He completed the project in March 2020 and earned the rank of Eagle Scout that summer.
“As a clergy kid who has moved around the state several times, this camp has always been a home base for me,” Allen said. “Attending summer camp and other events throughout the years has poured a lot into my spiritual life and development.”
A future in helping others
Elizabeth Milam and Allen have a lot in common. She is also a member of the Fruitland Park church, its mission trips to New Orleans and Atlanta, and its Vacation Bible School team. Helping with the after-school program has rounded out her church service.
“I feel really thankful and really grateful to be a (scholarship) recipient. But it just really is motivating, honestly, and really encourages me to keep going with the UMC and … make sure I’m plugged in with the church when I get to college.” — Rebecca Kern
Unlike her fellow scholarship recipients, she plans to study nursing at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.
Milam completed four choir tours with her father, Robbie Milam, who served as the church minister of music for seven years. The two also drove to North Carolina, visiting and singing in nursing homes along the way. They also raised money for the centers.
In school at First Academy of Leesburg, Milam was part of National Honor Society, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, student government, and varsity softball, basketball and volleyball.
Amanda Patterson, guidance counselor at First Academy, describes Milam’s dedication to service, despite a full schedule.
“She selflessly gave her (limited) free time to helping others,” Patterson wrote in her scholarship recommendation letter. “She doubled the required 100 hours of community service, often spending her summers mentoring younger children through summer camp ministries.”
After beginning work at a nurse, Milam will consider medical school or more education in nursing.
“I want to ensure that I follow God’s plan for me and if needed, open my mind to another career that I could be led to,” Milam said.