“I received the scholarship myself when I was in school. I remember that that experience was when I was first connected with Mary Hill Davis Offering, and that scholarship absolutely helped me when I went to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS). It helped a lot with the tuition,” Lorenzo Pena, director of Texas Baptists Cultural Engagement, said.
Pena received the Mary Hill Davis Ethnic/Minority Scholarship from 1977-1979, while he was receiving his master’s degree at SWBTS in Fort Worth. He remembers being interviewed by Joy Fenner, former executive director-treasurer of WMU of Texas, and being grateful for the support as he prepared himself for a life of ministry.
Now, years later, Pena is using his role as Cultural Engagement Director to help college students receive the same scholarship that helped him. The Mary Hill Davis Ethnic/Minority Scholarship was created by WMU of Texas to help minority students have a successful college experience that prepares them for a God-centered life.
“The purpose of the Mary Hill Davis scholarship program is to provide support and encouragement to Texas Baptists ethnic and minority students who will serve as future lay and vocational ministry leaders in Texas Baptists ethnic minority churches,” Pena explained.
Megan Ward was one of the students awarded with the scholarship in the 2019 school year. Ward attends Baylor University, where she is studying nursing. She explained that the scholarship has helped relieve some of the financial worries so that she can focus on her studies.
“Because of the Mary Hill Davis Scholarship, I did not have to apply for extra loans in order to pay for school,” Ward said. “This scholarship has helped to lift the financial burden and allowed me to focus more on my academics. I am very appreciative of how much this scholarship has helped me.”
The scholarship was created in the 1950s as the WMU of Texas expanded and began to look for new ways to foster education and ministry. Over time, the scholarship has evolved to be what it is today. Now, the scholarship is available to members of Texas Baptist ethnic/minority churches who are seeking to obtain an undergraduate degree from a Texas Baptist university.
“It helps make it a reality for many of these students who want to go to Baptist school and get a degree,” Pena said. “So we’re very grateful for any amount we’re able to get to help these minority students.”
Students eligible include those from Hispanic, African American and Intercultural churches. They must demonstrate that they are actively involved in their church and culture.
Pena explained that ethnic and minority students may face challenges that other students do not. If they move to the United States as children, they must learn English and how to assimilate to a new culture while also studying. Or, if they have family members who do not speak English fluently, the students may have to help their family through legal and everyday proceedings in addition to their course load. Scholarships such as the Mary Hill Davis Ethnic/Minority Scholarship can help alleviate the additional burden that comes with college finances and ensure that students feel they can afford to attain a quality education.
“They’ve made this choice to go to a Baptist school, and this scholarship helps them feel supported in that choice. The students I’ve heard from say that receiving this scholarship makes them feel wanted and encouraged on the campus. It says, ‘you believe in me so much you’re going to help me go to college,’” Patty Lane, Intercultural Ministries director, said. “It feels like a real support as they are growing in their faith and education when we come alongside them with this scholarship.”
The Mary Hill Davis Offering® for Texas Missions supports missions and ministries across Texas. For more information, go to iamtexasmissions.org.