The University of Indianapolis was awarded a grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to support the continuation of the Student Leadership Academy for high school students. The grant provides five years of sustainability funding for the initiative, which will cover lodging, meals and advertising for the summer camp and support for student projects at their home churches.
For ten years, the Student Leadership Academy at the University of Indianapolis has provided vocational exploration programs for United Methodist high school students by utilizing the vocational curriculum of theological exploration that is used by the Lantz Center in weekend retreat format.
The Student Leadership Academy is part of Lilly Endowment’s High School Youth Theology Institutes initiative, a national effort to help colleges and theological schools develop and strengthen programs that encourage high school students to explore God’s call in their lives.
The week-long summer institute at the University of Indianapolis is designed to engage students in vocational discernment as well as theological exploration of mission and ethics. Each summer the academy focuses on a distinct theological theme that also addresses social issues within our culture. According to Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Gibbs, University Chaplain and Director of the Lantz Center for Christian Vocations & Formation, the program began in 2011 as a way to strengthen relationships between the University and the Indiana United Methodist Church.
The Student Leadership Academy seeks to inspire youth as they begin to explore their future education and career path. “SLA seeks to help students in their vocational discernment process,” said Dr. David Boyd, associate director of the Lantz Center. “Students learn about themselves, and about the opportunities to work around them. Our desire is that SLA will successfully launch them on the lifelong process of vocational discernment.”
Dr. Boyd went on to say that many students who attend SLA apply and eventually attend UIndy. “These students become leaders on our campus, and within Ecumenical and Interfaith Programs,” he said. According to Rev. Dr. Gibbs, a large percentage of Religion majors at the University have been either participants in the program or their youth directors who returned to finish a degree.
Mya Taylor ‘23 (religion and psychology) is one of the many students who attended the Student Leadership Academy who now calls UIndy home. “SLA helped me discover my passions and link them to the needs of the world. At SLA, I discovered I have a purpose,” she said. “Student Leadership Academy will always hold a special place in my heart and I am forever grateful for all the opportunities it provided and the lessons I learned during my time as a participant.”
While the University motto “Education for Service” isn’t expressly religious, it goes hand-in-hand with the goal of the Student Leadership Academy. “We desire to see students educated so that they are able to serve the world — education is a part of their vocational journey,” said Dr. Boyd. “At SLA, we launch students on that journey to help them consider what God is calling them to do in this world that uses their gifts to serve others.”