by Jerrod Baker
I heard about Project Transformation from the Wesley Foundation at OSU when I was a sophomore in college. I was an active member at the Wesley Foundation and they informed us one Sunday that Charlie Ludden from Project Transformation was going to come by one Sunday to preach. I remember not being too excited because I did not know who he was. What I do remember getting excited about was the opportunity to eat free Hideaway pizza. After the service, I attended the meeting there at Hideaway and my life took a turn I did not expect.
At this point in my collegiate career, I was very excited to complete my Secondary Education degree and start teaching in a classroom as soon as possible. I distinctly remember always boasting that I would never work with junior high students or below because I was meant to teach only senior high students. I did not want anything to do with small children.
The Project Transformation meeting had me intrigued. After speaking with Charlie and some other college students who had previously worked with Project Transformation, I was interested in the opportunity for one major reason. This major reason was that it would be a summer internship that would actually boost my education portfolio and make it easier to get a job in my field later on. These internships are generally hard to come by for education majors, so I was stoked about this one. I was not nearly as stoked about the kids.
Jumping forward about 6 months, I was at training for my summer as the STEM coordinator at El Reno’s Project Transformation site. I met a wide array of students from many different backgrounds. I met so many people that I would remain friends with long after my summer with them including a young man by the name of John Mark Foster. (At this point I had no idea who Pastor Mark was.)
After a long summer that was full of hard work and amazing memories, I knew something in me had changed. I fell in love with every single one of my students that I had the privilege of working with that summer. They were and still are amazing young people who are going to grow up and be incredible adults. My negative stigma towards working with young children had vanished and I no longer thought the way I had before.
For the next 6 months after camp had ended, I remember having dreams about being back in El Reno and teaching my students. It was obvious that I had to go back the next summer. The next time I went, I was sent to Enid to help set up their Project Transformation site and be the returning member at the site. I was upset at first because I was going to miss the opportunity to visit my students from the previous summer who I had fallen in love with, but I was also excited to create new relationships with new children in Enid.
Through my experience with Project Transformation, God reassured me that I am truly passionate about working with young people. He let me know that even though I might not end up in a high school classroom after I finish college, I will be able to do what I am passionate about. He let me know that I don’t just have to work in a classroom. I simply want to work with young people. The experience has helped me in my current job as the youth director, not only by helping me learn to be flexible when things don’t go as planned, but also to be able to look past the situations many of my students find themselves in and simply love them for who they are.
My life plans might have been very different when I was a sophomore in college, but God showed me that His plan is greater and will be more rewarding than anything I can come up with. If this was not true, then I am not sure where I would be today. I know I probably would not have ended up at a young church at the corner of Covell and Penn.
Want to help?
Our youth students are serving at Project Transformation from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. June 25-28 at Chapel Hill United Methodist Church. We need volunteers to read alongside our youth students and/or help provide meals. For more information, please email Jerrod Baker.