Several Rescue Mission of Mahoning Valley clients are getting the chance of a lifetime: a virtually tuition-free, online college associate-of- arts degree from San Diego Christian College.
Terrence Richards, 55, of Dover, a resident at the mission for five months and one of the new college students, said he “has a great desire to teach the Gospel,” and believes a degree would give him the knowledge and credentials to help him do that.
“I could do God’s work better through this program,” said Roger Young, 25, of Warren, another new college student who has lived at the mission for six months.
Jim Echement, mission executive director, called the organization’s partnership with San Diego Christian College, which adds a college degree to the curriculum, a “tipping point” for the mission.
“It is a minor curriculum shift that will produce major positive results in the community. We’re equipping these people to be contributors to the local economy,” said Echement, speaking at a press conference Monday at the MVR Club to announce the program.
This partnership, the first of its kind for San Diego Christian College, is a prototype for what leaders see as a model that could be used at missions around the country and the world, said John Muckridge, mission director of education.
“This integration of faith and learning is just another step to equip our clients,” said Ron Starcher, mission director of client services.
The first classes, which can be as basic as teaching reading and writing or helping students achieve their General Educational Development certificate, began Feb. 10 with “Adult Development and Life Planning.”
Other classes in the spring course schedule are “Introduction to Computer,” “College Composition I,” “Personal Finance,” and “College Composition II.”
The students will not be on their own, however.
Echement said local volunteers are being trained by San Diego Christian to be adjunct professors to help the mission residents.
Paul and Lorri Ague, San Diego Christian president and dean of adult professional studies, respectively, attended the press conference. They are married.
San Diego Christian sees this as a launching pad for mission clients to “find out who you are and find your purpose and passion in life,” Paul Ague said.
“This is a great moment for San Diego Christian. We are super excited about you guys and making an impact in lives with Christian education,” he added.
Another great benefit is that those who complete the associate degree program will graduate debt free, Echement said.
He said all the clients have received $5,000 Federal Pell Grants, which are awarded to low-income students and do not have to be repaid.
San Diego Christian College has agreed to accept whatever amount the students can raise as their tuition.