Duane Bonifer  |   Published October 15, 2019

Lilly Endowment Supports Theological Institute for Youth

$225,950 grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. supports College’s dynamic Lux Summer Theological Institute for Youth.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – Monmouth College has received a grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to support the College’s Lux Summer Theological Institute for Youth.

The sustainability grant of $225,950 will help the national summer program become self-sufficient over the next five years.

During its first three years of service, the Lux Summer Theological Institute for Youth has attracted 40 exceptional high school students from around the nation to Monmouth. During their two weeks on campus, the community-building experience gives high school students an opportunity to study theology and scripture in light of a social justice issue, such as food security, environmentalism or sustainability.

“Churches tell us how excited their students are after they return from the institute,” said Monmouth Chaplain the Rev. Dr. Teri Ott, who runs the institute with Associate Chaplain the Rev. Jessica Hawkinson-Dorow and Associate Professor Dan Ott. “Students are eager to take on new leadership roles in their churches, and they want to help their churches take on social justice initiatives around food security and sustainability. These young people are helping lead the way when they get home, and their churches are very excited about their growth.”

Monmouth’s Lux Summer Theological Institute for Youth was established in 2016 with a $451,000 grant from Lilly Endowment as part of its High School Youth Theology Institutes initiative. The initiative seeks to encourage young people to explore theological traditions, ask questions about the moral dimensions of contemporary issues, and examine how their faith calls them to lives of service.

During their two weeks at the College, Lux Institute students work at the College’s Educational Garden and Market Farm, take field trips to area businesses that are part of the food economy, and take part in community service projects at local non-profit agencies that focus on food security.

“We’re really proud of this program and all we’ve been able to accomplish through it in just three years,” said Teri Ott. “Lilly Endowment’s faith in us and in our program is deeply appreciated. The first grant enabled us to study how we could best implement a high school theological institute here at Monmouth College. We hired outside consultants and did a lot of assessment. Now we have a finely tuned, national-caliber program that we are excited to see grow and thrive.”

The Lux Institute is one of about 100 high school youth theology institutes around the United States, and it is one of three offered by institutions affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Ott said that one of the Lux Institute’s goals over the next five years is to expand its ecumenical reach.

“We want the community to be diverse because that reflects the world we live in,” she said.

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