Growing passion and leadership through Summer Service

young woman smiles at the camera standing outside

Summers for college students can take a variety of forms. For Tylah Cline, participating in MCC’s Summer Service program was a great way to launch into her senior year and build on her passion for racial justice.

Cline is dedicated to her home neighborhood in Canton, Ohio, particularly understanding the history of racism and how it continues to affect her community. That’s one of the reasons she was drawn to Lighthouse Ministries and the opportunity to serve there through Summer Service.

Lighthouse Ministries has been serving the youth of southeast Canton since 1996 through a partnership with First Mennonite Church. Their mission is to “provide a safe place for neighborhood children to learn and grow through after-school programs, ministry clubs, summer activities and acts of service.”

A double major in history and global and international studies at Malone University, Cline completed an internship at Lighthouse with their after-school program this past spring. When that ended, Lighthouse then partnered with MCC to bring Cline into the Summer Service program to enable her to continue with the organization.

With the goal of equipping and nurturing young adults of color for leadership, the Summer Service Program was a great fit for Cline. “Summer Service projects are important because it can add so much experience, knowledge and maturity to an individual,” said Cline. “It is an incredible opportunity to help and encourage those who need it the most, and in turn, can aid in the growth and development of an individual.”

She was excited about the opportunity to work with Lighthouse Ministries. “Lighthouse’s mission and vision overlaps with mine through its focus on countering the effects of past racially driven policies that continue to affect the southeast decades later,” she said. “The Lighthouse’s devotion to understanding that history and serving its community of southeast Canton is just a few of the things I love about this organization.”

Cline’s Summer Service assignment was serving as the assistant director of the summer enrichment camp. The Lighthouse summer camp focuses on individual attention and support with lots of hands-on learning opportunities, working to combat the loss of learning retention that typically happens over the summer.

Cline had a range of responsibilities including planning activities, keeping track of details like classroom ratios, organizing breakfasts and lunches and overseeing the general well-being and safety of the children.

“I learned many things about childcare basics, added onto my leadership and organizational skills and learned staff management and general management skills,” reflected Cline.

The camp included traditional academic subjects like reading, math and science, and time for other activities like theater, art and Bible. For Cline, one of the highlights was the field trips where they would take the campers out into the community.

“I loved these times because it was a time for the children to get out of our everyday routine and have a blast with each other and the camp counselors,” she reflected. “It was a joy to see how happy the children were during our field trips.”

Cline has really enjoyed working at Lighthouse Ministries, where she feels like her passion for racial justice and her home community matches their mission. “It’s so important to serve others, especially those who have been pushed aside and disadvantaged by the system, government, and society in place,” she said.

She is grateful to MCC and the Summer Service program for supporting her position with Lighthouse this summer. “I have learned more about how to show Christ’s love through serving and simply loving others through MCC,” she reflected.

Tasha McClain was Cline’s supervisor this summer. “The Summer Service Program is important because it helps to foster spiritual growth, enhances leadership skills and continues to impact youth positively especially in an urban neighborhood,” said McClain. “Having Tylah assigned to assist us with our efforts while doing community engagement and Christian service was good to have. I could see the growth in her step-by-step as an upcoming leader.”

As she looks to the future, Cline’s experience with the program is guiding her path. “The Summer Service program helped me in understanding who I want to be and what I would like to do after this stage of my life is over,” she explained.

Those plans including pursuing a graduate degree in history with a focus on race studies or urban development. “I desire to develop a career around helping people that have been affected by the negative side of urban planning and development or educating others to the reality of those living in poverty in our own communities.”